Are you new to the blogging world? Or perhaps you’ve been blogging for a while but are new to SEO? I am neither. But I’ve been hiding my head in the sand for the 6 years that I’ve had my website. I have finally decided to look up and get a lay of the land today. In that sense, I am, for all practical purposes, an SEO newbie.
When I Thought I Knew About SEO
I started my website in 2010 to market my preschool, Trillium Montessori. I was ALL IN. I researched that WordPress was the CMS to use. Yeah, I knew that CMS meant content management system. I was so in. I knew that SEO meant Search Engine Optimization, and that this was super important for my website to be easily found in search results. I knew I had to have a blog and regular new content. I even knew that I needed to use keywords in my content and I needed backlinks. I knew to submit my site to Google Places (that was back in the day… now it’s Google My Business) and other local directories. You guys… I had a spreadsheet. I had this website building thing down.
But my brain works in a funny way. There were whole sections of website building that I completely ignored… actively avoided in fact. The business of running a school got in the way. I didn’t have the stamina to keep learning and making sure I was doing the right things. If something seemed too complicated and overwhelming, it went in the “it’ll take care of itself” dark cabinet in my head.
Time to look at SEO for 2017
But here I now am. Many years have passed. I have some breathing room in my life. And it is now time to overhaul the website. Oh. my. goodness.
No, really. I am learning, or re-learning a lot. And I feel like I’m coming to it with a beginner’s mind.
So let me share with you 5 easy peasy basic SEO must-have tactics that I will be implementing on my site. And kindly don’t judge me for not having paid attention to these in the past.
If you’re getting started with blogging, or pulling your head out of the sand like me, then follow along.
Note: These steps apply if you’re using WordPress. You may have to make some other adaptations if you’re using a different platform like Blogger etc.
My 5-Step SEO Checklist for Newbies
1. Make sure your website is mobile responsive.
Who doesn’t have a mobile responsive website in the middle of 2016? ME! But that is history. I’ve moved on. I got a new mobile friendly theme. Ok, so this is not exactly an easy peasy step if you’re afraid of tech. But if you’re just starting out, this is super simple. Pretty much every current theme you can find now will be mobile responsive. Google is going to be prioritizing mobile friendly sites in search, so if you’ve got a dinosaur of a site, it’s time to update it now.
2. Figure out your keyword phrase for each post and page.
For every post and page on your site, figure out a focus keyword phrase. If someone searches for this phrase in Google, you want to be in the top results. Use that keyword phrase a couple of times in your content and at least once in a subheading. Remember to use the subheading tags when you’re formatting your text instead of just increasing the font size.
Why a keyword phrase rather than just a single word? Because, let’s face it, you’re a newbie! The top results for the single keywords are going to be filled by the large, authoritative sites. But you can show up for the longer phrases. But don’t overdo it. That’s called keyword stuffing and Google is getting too smart to fall for that and could even penalize you for it. Use synonyms.
3. Get the SEO for WordPress Plugin by Yoast
Guys, if you don’t have this… stop what you’re doing and get it now. It’s free. It will make things SO much simpler for you. Once you’ve activated Yoast, you’ll see it below the post when you go to write a new post or edit an old one. Just do what it tells you until it gives you a green light. It will ask you to make sure your headline and meta description has your keyword phrase in it… and will show you exactly where to edit those and give you clear instructions. This used to give me the heebie jeebies before Yoast.
4. Optimize your images.
What does that mean? The first thing it means is that they shouldn’t be enormous files! That slows down your site speed and that’s bad for SEO. Pop your image into something like Canva, PicMonkey, or Pixlr, and first reduce the dimensions to the size you want. Next, drop your image into tinypng.com and compress your image file. My goal is to have the image around 100kb without losing quality. Then, rename your image using descriptive words, maybe even the keyword phrase you picked out for your post. Do not upload it as IMG_0034 or Screenshot-12:30. That is a wasted opportunity and is utterly useless in search.
Now your image is ready to upload to WordPress. Once you’ve uploaded it, fill out the alt tag for the image. You’ll find this field when you click on the image in your media library. Use a few descriptive sentences about your post. This is usually the text that shows up when you go to pin an image so make it readable and searchable! Also make sure you designate a horizontal featured image for every post (found in the right sidebar on the post editing screen). This image will get pulled up when someone shares your post on Facebook.
5. Add internal links
Add links to your other relevant posts and pages on your site. This helps the search engines get to and index those pages via many paths. Use relevant words and phrases as your link text rather than something generic like “click here” or “this page”. If you want to read more about internal linking try this guide to internal links by Moz.com.
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