Search Engine Optimisation (or Search Engine Optimization if you’re American) is one of the most important things to you need to crack if you’re going to grow your blog sustainably in 2023. SEO can seem totally baffling to the new blogger. Full of technical terms, and a lingering sense it’s a mysterious dark art.
However, the good news is that I’m going to explain what you need to know about SEO as a new blogger. I share how I managed to grow a new blog over a fairly short period with most traffic coming from Google. All using “on page” SEO, without paying for backlinks, advertising or anything remotely shady.
- Glossary of Key SEO Terms for New Bloggers
- 1. SEO Basics for New Bloggers
- 2. How to get started with SEO as a New Blogger
- 3. Why content is key for getting traffic from search engines
- 4. Straightforward SEO Checklist for Blog Posts
- 5. Great SEO Tools for Bloggers
- Final Thoughts
Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links. This means I may get a small commission if you buy something after clicking through.
Glossary of Key SEO Terms for New Bloggers
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of SEO, let’s start with an explanation of the key terms that crop up when talking about it.
I’ve set out the main SEO terms in an easy to use FAQ format below to help the new blogger. You’ll see I explain the key terms in a non-techie way, whilst also giving a little more detail on the technical side for those who’d like to understand more.
1. SEO Basics for New Bloggers
Now we’ve got the key terminology under our belt, let’s go through SEO basics for new bloggers.
Of course, anyone can create a blog. But not everyone who creates a blog gets traffic from Google. They might get traffic from social media, and that takes a lot of effort, especially the social media platforms don’t like content that sends users off the platform.
This is where SEO comes in. If you optimise your blog for SEO, you’ll ear traffic from Google for free. (I concentrate on Google in this post as that’s where most people in the UK search).
There’s no big magic wand you can use or tool you can buy that will optimise your blog for search engines. It’s all about creating compelling and useful content that your users want to read, time and time again. Content that’s unique and fresh, that doesn’t just rehash what everyone else says. It also means making the most of the SEO tools that are there to catch Google’s eye, so called “on-page SEO”.
What is Google wanting to achieve?
First of all, let’s talk about what Google wants to achieve. By understanding that, we’ll be part of the way towards understanding how to optimise your website content for the search engines.
At the heart of what Google is trying to do, is to make useful information accessible to everyone. Notice the words “useful” and “accessible”. That’s where our focus must be.
In other words, we must create information that is useful for our target audience, the users. If the content isn’t useful, the website is not going to be a long term success. Sure, buying backlinks and getting friends to leave comments might give the website a little boost. But what Google wants to see, is people searching for something, seeing a promising website in the search results page, clicking through, and staying there to read the content.
Of course it’s not just the words on the page, but it’s also the user experience, to make it accessible. Is it easy to read? Is it laid out nicely with headings? Are there images that help break up the text and make the page a pleasure to look at. Is it authoritative? Or is it bland and generic, stuffed with keywords. Google wants to make useful information accessible to users.
How can Google tell if it’s high quality, nicely presented content? People tend to spend longer on the page, and click through to other links. A blog post that’s full of key words and might rank highly to begin with, will soon fall back down if people take one look at it and leave. That’s why it’s important to keep the user experience at the heart of everthing.
Let’s look into a bit more detail on the HOW and WHY of SEO.
How do Search Engines Work?
In order to understand why we need to do certain things for SEO, it’s helpful for bloggers to understand a little about how search engines work. Here are the key features of search engines:
- Search engines use programs called crawlers, bots or spiders to follow links on the web to discover web pages.
- Googlebot is the name of Google’s crawler, and it crawls the web constantly.
- These crawlers follow links from one page to another, building an HTML version of a page in an enormous database, called the index.
- For Google to find your site, there needs to be a link from another site, or at the very least you’ve submitted your sitemap to Google (see the definition of sitemap above for links how to do it).
- Once a web page is discovered, it’s processed and indexed by Google in an enormous database, called the index. During indexing, the search engine analyses the page’s content, including text, images, other media like videos, and metadata.
- Sometimes a page is crawled, but Google decides not to index it. It’s sometimes a bit of a mystery. However, when this has happened to me, it’s usually because the content is a bit “thin” (under 300 words). I find if I increase the word-count to at least 1,000 words, fix any broken links, and include images etc, indexing follows.
- Once a page or post is on the index, the next step is for it to be ranked so that it comes up in the search results when a user asks a question in Google.
- Google has a secret algorithm to decide which pages it will show in which order. How this algorithm works is a secret, but it’s usually based on the quality of the content, relevance, popularity, and the user experience. Google’s algorithm assesses the authority and quality of web pages based on the number and quality of links pointing to them.
- Displaying search results
- When a user makes a search on Google, the results will be usually in a ranked order on a search engine results page (SERP). The results typically include the page’s title, a brief snippet of content, and a link to the page.
This is just an overview, and search engines such as Google continuously change their algorithms and incorporate new techniques to increase the accuracy and relevance of their search results. This goes back to Google’s mission above. Also, factors such as user preferences, location, and search history may influence the results presented to each individual user.
2. How to get started with SEO as a New Blogger
These are the first 5 steps you need to take when you first launch a new blog to get your site ready to rank:
- Google Search Console. If there is one thing you do, get set up on Google Search Console as soon as your site goes live. Here’s the Google explanation of how to do it. It can take a while before your new website is indexed – it took this website about 5 days before the first blog posts appeared in the index.
- Sitemap. Make sure Google has your sitemap. Here is the advice how to do it from Google. This is how to do it if you have the Yoast SEO plug-in.
- Request indexing. Each time you publish a new page or blog post and you want it to be indexed, submit the URL to Google Search Console. This should speed it up.
- Breadcrumbs. Do set up breadcrumbs as they improve the user experience, making it easier for them to find their way around. They also help search engines “read” the structure of your site more easily. There are lots of plugins that can do this for you. I set mine up in the Yoast SEO plugin.
- Links. Don’t be tempted to buy backlinks, as that’s counterproductive. One thing you can easily do, is make sure your blog posts and pages link to each other. Do avoid “orphan” pages with no links to them, as it will be difficult for Google to find them. Your most important pages will tend to have more links to them. Do also use good, descriptive “anchor” text, and avoid text like “here”.
3. Why content is key for getting traffic from search engines
Having quality content is key to attract traffic from search engines. When you first start your blog, try and produce as many blog posts as you can that are at least 1,000 words, that answer questions that people have.
Remember that Google’s mission focuses on wanting to make useful information accessible. Not information that may or may not be accurate, and is bland because it’s been scrapped off the internet by ChatGPT.
Although AI can be so appealing, it’s better to develop your own voice and stance on the things that are important to your target audience. Write blog posts that are genuinely useful, with tips from your own experience or which are well-researched and referenced. To find out more about AI, read this blog post: Is AI all it’s cracked up to be for bloggers?
For my blog The Independent Landlord, I draw on my own experience as a landlord, and my professional expertise as a lawyer, to create original content that helps people. If it’s a subject I don’t know much about, I use my network to interview people and include quotes in my blog posts. This creates a natural reciprocal backlink.
I’m taking the same approach with The Web Smith, not least because I’m sharing my own experience of how I created a successful blog on a shoe-string by myself, by focusing on creating great content.
4. Straightforward SEO Checklist for Blog Posts
Here is a simple SEO checklist for new bloggers to use when they write a blog post. As a reminder, the meanings of the techie terms I use in this section are in my glossary above.
- Research the topic and decide on the keywords you’re going to focus on.
- Tips for Titles. The title of the blog post or page should about the topic you’re focussing on, and contain the keyword or keyphrase. The lower level titles (H2 and H3) should deal with sub-topics of the topic. If they’re the same as search queries in Google, all the better.
- Images. Include around 5 images, including at least 2 for Pinterest, if your target market uses Pinterest. Make sure you add Alt Text to the images when you upload them to the Media Library.
- Meta Description. It’s really important to fill in the meta description for your blog post or page, as this will come up in Google. It should include your focus keyword.
- Categories and tags. Make sure you allocate a category to the blog post, if you have these. Tags can be useful. I exclude mine from indexing as I found they appeared in search results, instead of the underlying articles. They’re good to have on the website as they help users find their way around.
- Check it. Once you hit publish, check the URL in an SEO analyser like this one from WP Beginner to see if there are any errors.
- Request indexing. Assuming there are no errors, submit the URL for indexing on Google Search Console.
5. Great SEO Tools for Bloggers
Yoast SEO Premium
If there’s one paid for plugin that I recommend for SEO, that’s Yoast SEO Premium. I use it for both of my websites and find it indispensable in keeping me on the straight and narrow when it comes to SEO.
I’m not an affiliate of Yoast Premium, and I’m sharing this recommendation because it is genuinely the best plug-in I use.
At the other end of the scale, if money were no object, I’d recommend Semrush as it has absolutely everything that you might possibly need for SEO.
SEO success does not happen overnight. It can take a while even for Google to index pages and posts on a new website. Ahrefs estimate it takes around 3-6 months for SEO to show results. This can be very frustrating for the new blogger, but it’s important not to give up.
Keep publishing new original content that answers questions that your target market have. Each time you publish something new or revise it, go to Google Search Console and ask for it to be indexed.
Don’t ignore older content. When you have half an hour to spare, go back and revise existing content, using the Search Queries for the page in Google Search Console as a guide.
Above all, don’t give up. You will get there if you keep at it. 😊