How to Rank Higher on Google: Blog SEO
You’ve created your WordPress blog; you’ve written some quality content, but you don’t see an influx of visitors. You’ve left out one important step: Optimizing your WordPress blog for SEO.
We walk you through basic optimization tactics step-by-step, and they can be applied to any website you want to rank higher.
What is SEO?
What is SEO? We’re glad you asked! SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a set of practices and systems that you implement to improve your website’s organic traffic and ranking on different search engines.
Ever wonder why when you search for something those particular results show up instead of other results? It’s because the top-ranking pages adhered to and implemented SEO systems and rules that showed search engines their website answers and addresses all the queries the user has.
For example, when you search for some mythical creature on Google, like dragons, you expect the results to show websites or pages with content fitting the fire-breathing beast. And that is, more often than not, what the top pages show – the appropriate content that solves or answers the users’ problem or query.
It would be quite unusual if you searched for the fabled creature and received pages relating to different kinds of sea moss. You tend to land on dragon-related pages, however, because on that page different SEO practices have been followed.
Those practices indicate to the search engine that the content is relevant to what the user has searched. Moreover, it answers the questions and adds value to the users’ experience. We can say that the content has been optimized for the search engine, hence Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Why is SEO important?
So, we know SEO is essentially doing the right things to and with your content so search engines (read Google since, it’s the most popular search engine) rank it higher, and your users have a better experience. But besides that, what else can a good SEO score do for your website or online business?
1. Increased Organic traffic
This one is a no-brainer. The higher your website ranks, the more traffic you’ll get. When was the last time you visited page 2 of Google when looking for something?
People want answers handed to them (on a platter, if at all available). It’s your job to ensure your website and content does that. You’ll want to create a keyword strategy, so you rank for specific keywords. Also, use a silver platter; it’s the gold standard in serving.
2. Nurturing and converting leads at different stages
Think about the different people that may visit your WordPress blog. All of them enter your domain with a different understanding of the specific niche you talk about. Let’s say your blog is about gemstones and the spiritual energy associated with them.
You’ll have absolute wizards visit your blog and possibly critique everything from the pronunciation of Lapis Lazuli, to what a “bad vibe” really is. You’ll also have elderly folks popping in to find the name of the nice stone their granddaughter got them.
It really ranges across the spectrum. What SEO allows you to do is to rank your content for different people at different stages of marketing funnel. This means you can write technical content to silence and answer any criticisms, and also write content for the beginner to understand how to align their chakras.
3. Stand out among your competitors
Almost any term or concept you can think to Google has someone ranking for it. Chances are your blog or website has competitors trying to rank for the same keywords and concepts you are. In other words, you won’t be the only person spreading good vibes via informative blog posts on the various gemstones.
Over 50% of all website traffic comes from organic search according to BrightEdge research. If you’re not number one on Google’s rankings, someone else is and they’re basically taking readers away from your website. We don’t need to mention that none of those blogs give off as many good vibes as yours does…
4. Efficient and cost-effective marketing
Unlike paid marketing, you’re not going out of your way to entice someone to visit your blog or website when you use SEO. They’re already looking for answers to a problem they have without your having to tell them they have it. The only thing you’re doing is assuring them (and Google) that you answer their question or query better than anyone else.
When you’re ranking well for terms in your niche, this makes you trustworthy, and you’ll receive a steady flow of visitors that few other marketing strategies can achieve.
1. Do SEO audit
Before you go on fixing any problems or making any improvements on your website, you need to identify what the problems are – you need to do an SEO audit. We put together an SEO audit guide to walk you through it step by step
An SEO audit is simply identifying issues with your website from an SEO perspective that’re stopping you from ranking on Google (or other search engines).
The definition may sound simple, but the implementation can take months. It may even be a case of shooting for the moon just to end up among the stars as there is always something that can be improved upon when it comes to SEO.
Some of the issues that an SEO audit will zoom in are:
- On-page and off-page SEO issues
- Technical issues
- Design and user experience
- Competition and market insights
- Content problems and opportunities
SEO audits are not a once-off occurrence either. They should be done regularly to assess the state of your website. Not unlike any handler of gemstones then, as there are always vibes to check. A bad vibe from your website, in terms of SEO, could mean a Google page two result which would not spread any peace, love, or happiness among the free folk of the internet.
What should an SEO audit look like?
Simple. An SEO audit should be as simple and comprehensive as possible so that anyone looking to implement the changes can adopt the presented roadmap to improving the websites ranking.
It doesn’t have to be an endless stream of pages showing graphs and stats but must be in-depth enough to offer a clear outline of what needs doing.
You don’t want your SEO audit to command you sacrifice three blind mice to a rose quartz statue of the Googlebot so that three months down the line you will appear on the top-ranking spot for 17 minutes after midnight.
You want your audit to be actionable with a clear path that can be taken for each step, and vitally, must show how the changes will affect your ranking.
2. Optimize WordPress for mobile
With the advent of mobile handhelds becoming an additional limb, surfing the online spheres while on the move has become standard procedure for many dwellers of the web.
That means often, people will be accessing your website via their mobile device and if your WordPress blog is not set up to accommodate that, you’re in real trouble.
This is because Google adopted a mobile-first approach over the last few years. Recently they have enabled mobile-first indexing for all websites, so if your website is not mobile-compatible Google will punish you heavily for it.
Optimizing your website for mobile means that when someone accesses your website or blog with their mobile device, everything should be scaled to proportion for a mobile screen. People don’t want to be scrolling in every direction on a 2-Dimensional plane to read information – they want to scroll either up or down.
This needs to be the case for every page on your website, not just the home page. Essentially, you have to design your website with mobile in mind from the get-go. Fortunately for you, you already took this into account because you read our previous posts on the WordPress blog series.
If it slipped your mind, not an issue. You can download a responsive plugin from the WordPress store to enhance your visitors’ mobile experience. Ideally, you would want a theme with responsive design as the downside to mobile optimization WordPress plugins are that often, they aren’t as customizable as we would like, if at all.
You can check if your website is mobile-friendly, alternatively here are some of the reliable plugins you can use to make your blog mobile-friendly are:
- JetPack – WP Security, Backup, Speed, & Growth
- AMP for WP – Accelerated Mobile Pages
How to optimize your WordPress blog for mobile
Now that you know what value a mobile-friendly design has on your SEO and user experience as a whole, let’s dive into some methods you can incorporate to optimize your WordPress blog for mobile users.
1. Design for mobile users
Besides having a responsive design, you want your website to translate well into a small screen experience. That doesn’t just mean scaling the pictures and text to fit on a mobile screen. It means every bit of content, bell, and whistle must be essential to the users’ experience being wholesome.
No unnecessary, clunky additions that “spice things up”. You need to think: small screen; less is more; it’s how you use it.
Your website may be gorgeous when viewing from a desktop device, but too many graphics and it looks like a bunch of clutter squirming for your readers’ attention.
With that said, content first should be your absolute priority, and that goes beyond mobile as a whole, but as a key approach for any blog.
Perfecting your website aesthetic is undoubtedly a lot of fun and really brings out your personality, but it should never be the focus, especially for mobile design. There’s a lot less room to work with, so ensuring the colour palette is visible is not as important.
As we mentioned earlier, thumbs do not want to traverse mobile terrain in all directions on a 2-D plane. They want to scroll up and down so your design should account for that, as should your website’s navigation.
Ensure that CTAs and other buttons are not in the way of the users scrolling experience, but make sure they are available to be clicked if need be.
We all know how annoying trying to click on tiny words or ‘X’s (like those in ad pop-ups) can be, so take that into consideration as well.
2. Optimize images and other graphics
One of the more annoying things to experience on mobile is ultra-long loading times. Users don’t want to sit around waiting for your page to load before they can start scrolling and getting the information they need.
Although it may only take over three seconds, that’s a new millennium in ‘waiting-for-pages-to-load’ time.
Google data shows that 53% of sites are abandoned if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
The main culprits in this area, are images or other visual graphics. Depending on the size they can slow down your site by a hefty amount.
The best approach is to ensure each image is compressed to under 100 KB and/or resized either via plugin or manually.
Plugins: Smush is a highly rated optimsation plugin.
- Adobe offers a free online resizing tool.
- Adobe Photoshop is best for resizing images without sacrificing quality.
- Windows Photo Editor does a good job of resizing images too.
- TinyJPG is a great tool to compress images.
You can also implement lazy loading, which halts the image or graphic loading until it’s needed. This makes the website a lot more streamlined and will go some distance in ensuring you beat that three second marker.
3. Enable Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Accelerated Mobile Pages is a special mobile optimization project devised by Google to make loading pages as quick as a flash. Of course, that may be a bit unrealistic since a flash is a fraction of a second, but it’s always good to aim above what is possible at present.
What AMP does, is strip the page down to the essentials to make the loading experience quicker than a year by a margin of millions (use seconds for this arithmetic problem). This limits certain kind of content that can be displayed when in use but loads much faster and increases the performance because of the limitations.
It’s one of the best options to increase performance and loading speed, short of using a text file format for your website.
Keep in mind that the page speed is a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm so long loading times is not something you want to ignore on your WordPress website.
Here’s how you can enable it for your WordPress website:
- Log in to the WP admin dashboard, and go to the plugin installation section. Select Add New.
- Search for AMP, and install the plugin authored by Automatic.
- That’s it. You can now go to Appearance > AMP to see how your website appears on mobile devices.
3. Improve on-page SEO
Ranking high on Google SERPs is an arduous journey. It requires consistent effort that may look like nothing is happening, but if done right you’ll notice the changes over time.
After all, it all depends on when Google has the time to crawl your pages, and how Google likes your changes, so it’ll take as long as they decide. All these little improvements increase your ranking little by little until you eventually find yourself in the top three.
So, what is on-page SEO and what are the tactics we can implement to get to that top three finish? It’s basically optimizing the elements of your webpages that affect your website’s search engine ranking. As for the tactics, we’ve got you covered with our full guide on on-page SEO.
Overview of on-page SEO tactics
We cover the full range of tactics you can implement to improve your on-page SEO ranking in our guide above if you want something more in-depth. Since you’re just getting started on your blog, however, we’ll take you through some of the basic things you can do as you write your blog posts.
1. Improve content quality
First and foremost, content quality is still the biggest ranking factor above all else.
Here’s our guide on how to write top-notch quality content for your blog.
To start, we’ll need to get our keywords in order. Keywords are words or phrases the users type into the search bar while looking for something.
So, someone looking for your website on crystals might use the keyword “purest crystal” which might be a bit ambiguous, but Google knows how to read user intent.
That’s a skill we suggest you learn to do as well when writing your blog posts, which is why we strongly suggested writing in-depth articles in our guide above.
2. Include your keyword in the title
The H1 of an article is often the deciding factor for many readers when choosing whether or not to read an article. If you don’t address at least part of the user’s query intent with your H1, chances are high that they’ll leave since they aren’t sure if you’ll be talking about their problem in your blog post.
Google’s John Mueller also talks about the importance of H1 headings in your posts and how Google reads them.
3. Use descriptive URLs
Your URL adds another layer of certainty to the subject of your post. So it’s important your URLs are readable by humans. When people see the right keywords in a URL, they know that the post discusses or has information about the query they’re searching for.
You want to keep them short and sweet because they will be cut off in the SERPs if they trail on too long. Also, because people scan the results on the SERPs a lengthy URL won’t work to your benefit. People scanning are only looking for keywords, so that’s what your URL should clearly show.
4. Title tag tips
Your title tag, or the name of that specific page on your website, also shows up in the SERPs. Same as with the URL, if the title tag does not convey the right message or match the user’s intent, you can expect them to go find good vibes on a different gemstone blog.
Usually, the H1 and the title tag are the same and that is generally a good approach to have, but sometimes your H1 may be on the longer side of things and would be cut off on the SERPs if used as a title tag. In cases like this you will of course need to adjust accordingly, just be sure to include the keyword.
The Sistrix SERP Snippet Generator is handy tool to preview what your post will look like in Google search results.
5. Customize meta descriptions
Same as the title tag in the sense that it shows up on the SERPs, but the meta description needs a bit more room to express its creative freedom. Not too much freedom, however, because after 160 characters the text will be cut off. Ideally you want to aim for a character count of around 120.
These artistic SEO elements do not factor into your ranking, but they’re what the searcher sees and uses to decide if they want to click through to your blog.
So, you can bet that an enticing meta description will lure even the most adamant crystal skeptics into your gemstone fortress, which will of course have been fated as the crystal ball said.
Website traffic prophecies aside, you want to include a keyword here as well to assure searchers that you have what it is they’re looking for. Expanding on the title tag is a good way to go.
6. Add alt text to images
As with the other elements, you want to add a description including a keyword to your images. If you’re beginning to see a pattern here involving the use of keywords, you may be onto something…
Standard procedure for optimized images is:
- Choose an appropriate name for the image. Be descriptive but not overbearing. You don’t want to create an entire persona for the image, but you want Googlebot to know what it’s reading. Make sure you use dashes between words instead of underscores (Google’s recommendation, not ours).
- Use descriptive alt text. The alt text on images is to describe the image. It’s primarily used for people who use screen readers, and also pops up if the image fails to load. Nothing quite like having a “Screenshot_245” pop up when an image doesn’t load. Make sure you’re concise and don’t mention that it’s an image as Google can work that out themselves.
- Compress your images. By far the easiest to manage of the three but can often be neglected. Make sure you don’t skip this because we know how important that three seconds of loading is.
7. Use internal and external links
We covered part of this in Part 2 of our series, but you want to become a resource for the user. Linking to relevant articles as well as your sources will do exactly that. Remember, Google is in the business of answering people’s questions and if you can help them do that, you’re on the right track.
3. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO is an optimization tactic that includes doing things on another website or platform that is not your own. An example would be like promoting your blog on social media or link building. This one can be a bit tricky to manage because you may not be in direct control of it all time but is just as important.
Overview of Off-page SEO tactics
As with on-page SEO, we have a full off-page SEO guide if you plan on doing a deep dive. Alternatively, here’s an overview of some of the optimization tactics you can implement for your blog.
As for the technical aspect of SEO, that runs throughout SEO audit and on-page SEO.
1. Link building
Possibly the off-page tactic most commonly associated with SEO. The primary purpose of link building is to cultivate a strong website authority. As a simple experiment, would you believe a fitness instructor who has 20 years of experience training clients, or your gym buddy who skips leg day every other week?
It’s not even a question, right? Google works the same way. They would much rather present the information of a person (read website) with high authority because it tends to be accurate.
And how does one acquire authority? By earning backlinks to your website. The obvious answer to the follow up question on backlinks is write quality content. If you write stellar content, people refer to your website, and when that happens, your website starts to become more authoritative.
2. Content marketing
A neat off-page tactic that allows you to have a bit more sway in how your website generates authority. Content marketing is any content you produce that does not call its website your home. So, guest blog posts, infographics, graphs, ebooks etc. all fall under this category.
The content serves as a promotion of your website without overtly doing so. Take this trail running infographic produced by Red Bull. While offering some interesting stats for people in the trail running niche, they also ensure that their brand is visible in the graphic, so you know who put in the work to make these stats available.
3. Social Media
At this stage in our technological development, we know social media is standard practice for many people. So much so that of those that are digital consumers, 97% of them used social media in the last month.
Same as with content marketing, people sharing your content on social media does not affect your ranking directly. It certainly helps build your reputation across a platform many people access on the daily. Think of it as the newspapers of old. Citizens would often not be aware of this, that, the other, unless it was showing in the newspaper.
Social can act in the way, displaying a strong presence and communicating via a platform that people are comfortable in, and garnering an authoritative reputation from there.
Now that you have a rudimentary understanding of how to approach ins and outs (ons and offs too) of SEO, we expect your crystal blog to shine a light across the online sphere.
Keep a lookout for Part 4 of our series on How to Start a Blog. We’ll be talking about how to monetize your blog. Keep an eye out!