Wouldn’t it be lovely if your blog or website could be one of the first results to be displayed in all relevant Google searches? Think of all that traffic, of all that exposure!
I’d love to provide you with a step-by-step guide to achieving just that, but let’s be realistic. If such a step-by-step guide existed then everyone would be doing it and there’s only one top spot in the search results. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive in improving your rankings. Even moving from the fourth page to the first page of search engine results could provide a substantial increase in your website traffic.
When it comes to blogging in particular, there is a huge focus on social media and for good reason. But I often feel that SEO falls lower down the priority list for many bloggers. As a result, so many bloggers are therefore missing valuable opportunities to increase website traffic. SEO is something we all know we should be doing, but we sort of just ignore and pretend it will sort itself out.
SEO is undoubtedly a hugely time-consuming process. It’s the reason that companies pay thousands of pounds per month for professional SEOs to do their thing. If you’re anything like me and blogging is an already-time-consuming hobby then frankly we don’t have the time to be dedicating every waking hour to working on the SEO for our blogs.
Please don’t give up hope just yet though, because there are some quick SEO tips you can implement right now. Full disclosure: these won’t propel you to the top of Google. However, my recommendations are the best practices for getting on the good side of Google (and trust me, that’s where you want to be).
1. Get your own domain and hosting
Sorry to open with a tip that requires departing with some cash but this is really important if you are serious about upping your blogging game. Free hosting available through the likes of WordPress (for example, when the URL is www.insertblogname.wordpress.com) will simply not cut it. Sure, if you are not particularly fussed about your blog ranking highly in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and it’s only a very casual hobby then totally fine.
However, the fact that you’re reading this post tells me that you are serious about ranking well and if you want to stand any chance then you need to get your own domain and hosting. You’re probably already all over this but in case you’re not, please be reassured that there are lots of great deals out there. No need to go spending hundreds of pounds. In fact, getting your own domain is usually only about a tenner a year.
2. Download Yoast
Again, you’ve probably already done this but I couldn’t not mention it. If you use WordPress then download the Yoast plugin (or equivalent for other platforms). It provides super useful tips for optimising each page and holds your hand so that even the most clueless SEO newbie can improve their SEO.
3. Homepage metadata
With your Yoast plugin downloaded, the first step you should take is to update your Homepage metadata. This means writing an SEO title and meta description. The SEO title is very influential in terms of your blog ranking for a given search term and the meta description is crucial for increasing click-through rates to your blog once it is appearing in the results. For more information on this, read the metadata post from my ‘SEO Basics for Bloggers’ series.
4. Canonical URL
Ew, that sounds complicated. Don’t panic, it’s really very simple: a canonical URL is your preferred domain that you want the search engine to index. In other words, you may find that multiple versions of your domain URL exist. For example:
If this is the case then it could be causing you a duplicate content issue, as there are essentially several different versions of your website. All you need to do is set up 301 redirects so that all of your domain versions redirect to the one preferred domain.
Google ultimately wants to provide the best user experience for those using the search engine and this means offering the safest experience. It therefore follows that Google will favour sites which are the most secure and don’t pose any threat to the user.
Be sure to keep your site updated and ensure you have a security plugin or two installed to help protect your site. If you really want to take your security to another level then you could consider buying an SSL certificate to get that coveted ’s’ after the ‘HTTP’ part of your URL. For more information on this, read an article I wrote for Search Engine Watch on switching to HTTPS. In short, if you blog as a hobby and do not treat it as your main source of income then it’s probably not worth it.
6. Submit sitemap
Anything you can do to make the little Google bots’ lives easier will be beneficial to your SEO. This is why submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console is always a good idea. First you will need to create an XML sitemap, which you can do via numerous free tools. Once you have your sitemap file, simply go to your Google Search Console, click ‘Crawl’, ‘Sitemaps’ and then ‘Add/test sitemap’.
7. Check mobile responsive
I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring your site is fully mobile responsive. You don’t need me to tell you how much we use the internet on our phones. Actually I will – over 50% of Google searches are carried out on a mobile.
Google are currently in the process of rolling out a mobile-first index, which means that Google will start creating and ranking its search listings based on the mobile version of content. Not a clue whether your website is mobile friendly? Do a quick test using this mobile-friendly testing tool.
8. Heading tags
Heading tags are important in helping Google to understand the structure of your page and also to provide a more user-friendly experience. Ensure that you are only deploying one H1 heading tag per page (and you can have as many H2, H3, etc., tags as you like). Start with the main pages for your site when checking for heading tags and then assess your blog posts. For more information on this, I wrote about headings in more detail in my SEO readability article.
9. Fetch as Google
If you’ve never used the ‘Fetch as Google’ tool on Google Search Console then the first thing you need to do is submit your entire site. It essentially speeds up the indexing process and I always recommend doing this whenever you make any changes to your site.
Once you have updated your site with any necessary SEO amends, go to the ‘Fetch as Google’ section under ‘Crawl’. To submit your entire site, click ‘Fetch and Render’. Once the status has stopped ‘pending’, click ‘request indexing’, confirm you are in fact a human and then select ‘crawl this URL and its direct links’.
Going forwards, whenever you submit a new blog post, get into the habit of indexing your posts to ensure they get picked up by Google quickly. When submitting blog posts, just click the ‘crawl only this URL’.
10. Comment on other blogs
Link-building is a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to your SEO strategy and I’ll need at least ten blog posts to cover that off. So just a super quick tip that you can get going with in the meantime. Get into the habit of commenting on other relevant blogs that are in your niche and include a link back to your blog.
Links to your site from other relevant and high authority sites are essential in terms of improving your SEO. Although links in comments are the lowest level of link you can get, it is still important to have a healthy selection of them in order to make your backlink profile appear more natural. In short, Matt Cutts says it’s good to do, so do it (Matt Cutts used to lead the webspam team at Google and is one of the most accurate sources of SEO insights).
Totally hooked by this SEO thing and champing at the bit to learn more? Check out Moz, which has tonnes of free resources which are all presented in an easy to understand, jargon free way. Or for something closer to home and a shameless self-promotional plug, I write articles for one of the leading SEO publications, Search Engine Watch. Go on and check out some of my articles!