Can you learn how to do SEO for free? Sure you can! Start to optimize your website and contents and see your site's traffic grow in no time!
Before we start, let's understand some important points.
Hard Niche Vs Easy Niche
If you go back to my niche lesson, you'll probably wonder what niche is still not taken to avoid competition. While it is true that some niches are easier to target - like a blog that aims to solve a problem with snails in a garden, it doesn't mean you cannot rank if you choose a more "saturated" niche. It will just take a longer time to rank, but it doesn't mean you cannot rank.
Niche sites do rank faster. The more targeted your website is, the faster you can see results.
Google Will Detect Your Site Automatically
Upon building your WordPress site, you'll see from the settings that the visibility of your site is set to searchable by default. It is up to search engines to honor your request if you choose to make your contents private.
(Optimize Your Website For SEO)
1. Page Speed
ENABLE A WEB CACHE
If you have a repeat visitor, a web cache will make the experience of that visitor pleasant.
Because the visitor has already been on your site, your site cache is already saved on that visitor’s browser, making your web pages fast to load.
A Web cache (or HTTP cache) is an information technology for the temporary storage (caching) of web documents, such as web pages, images, and other types of web multimedia, to reduce server lag. - Wikipedia
If you have a first time visitor, a visitor who is using a proxy server or is surfing in incognito mode (and therefore doesn’t save cache files), the site speed will not be as fast. Your visitors’ clicks on links to your other pages, will request directly to the server where those web files are found. Depending on how busy the server is and how heavy the files are, it can take longer for the requested web files to load.
Some hosting providers like Wealthy Affiliate will install a built-in caching on every website you build. Other hosting providers will give a free caching plugin like Breeze for Cloudways. Wherever you are hosted, ask the support what plugin is compatible with their server because some caching plugins are not compatible with specific servers and can therefore cause problems.
I tried to put a code in my .htaccess (for advanced users) as per the lesson I found on a coding website. True enough, it eliminated the need for a caching plugin. However, it only worked for 10 mins. After that, my test website was down (conflict with Breeze, another caching plugin). I highly encourage newbies to use codes only when you already understand them.
Building your website on a dedicated server where you do not have to share the resources will obviously make your site load faster. Owning a server in Cloudways for as low as $10 per month is not a bad idea BUT ONLY IF you know how to handle server problems should they arise (or is patient enough to learn the technical sides of managing servers).
A fast-loading website is one of the criteria in ranking on top. Page speed - it's sometimes about your images.
Optimizing Images For A Fast-Loading Website
This is probably the most overlooked aspect of optimizing website for SEO. You’ll know this when you go to https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/.
If you type a URL of a page you want to speed test, you’ll see image-related warnings like this:
Even me, I’m guilty of this. Being a one-man show in the past, my goal is just to publish contents therefore overlooking the image optimization part in order to speed up my sites.
There are a lot of free WordPress plugins that you can choose from which can do this job automatically. Everytime you upload an image in your media library, it will automatically convert the images in a format that can speed up your site.
The plugin I use is Short Pixel Image Optimizer.
To locate it, go to your WordPress Dashboard, click on Plugin>Add New>Short Pixel Image Optimizer. It has a limit of 100 credits/images per month so it is best to install it from the start.
If you go to Installed plugins>ShortPixel Image Optimizer>Settings, there’s an API key requirement that you can get for free by registering your email. Once you have it, you can now start to bulk optimize.
If you install it in the later part of your content publishing schedule, you’ll see that you already have thousands of images to optimize, like me! LOL. I had to pay a one-time fee of $9.99 for 10,000 credits just so I can optimize my 5,000 plus images in one shot.
Your free 100 credits renews every month, so if you are out of credits, and you do not want to pay, just wait for your plan to renew and have 100 credits again, then manually optimize images by then.
You can also install other free image optimization plugins if you cannot wait for your next credits. Just make sure to deactivate the existing plugin before you activate another plugin for a similar job.If your hosting already has a built-in caching function or if you are already using a plugin for caching, do not use another plugin with the same function - it can cause conflicts. Make sure that you choose the plugin with "image optimizing function" only.
CHOOSE A CLEAN THEME
When you are just starting out, choosing a clean theme will be easier since your website is still empty and a simple test in the Google Pagespeed Insights will tell you that it’s a heavy theme.
If your hosting provider allows you to make unlimited or extra websites for free, you can create a test website. Before installing anything on your LIVE website (like a theme or plugin), test it first on your trial website.
2. Install An SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate can be easily switched on (in Wealthy Affiliate) or installed (in Cloudways) as long as your website is already live. It is free (renewable every three months) most of the time.
You can easily spot a website with a valid SSL Certificate by looking at the URL of the website. It should have a padlock beside it. Without it, site visitors will get a warning telling them that the website they are browsing is unsafe and stealing datas like credit card information, etc.
SSL Certificate = Trust Seal!
3. Submit A Sitemap
We are in this business to be seen and we want to be seen (indexed) fast. In order for Google and other search engines to easily find you, it is better to submit your XML Sitemap (or the list of your contents).
During an exam in school, you may submit your test paper (XML sitemap) to your teacher (Google) once you are done. The teacher can check right away or days after submitting, then you'll know your score (ranking). Submitting your sitemap is not a guarantee for ranking on top (getting high scores), so you better do good (provide quality/helpful contents).
Once your Sitemap is created (by the plugin) you have the option to submit it to search engines so they will now have a list of your past and future posts.
Help Google Find Your Pages
Use Internal Links
Internal links are links that point to any part of your site.
For example, try to click on this link → “Start your blogging journey here.”
You’ll see that it will go to an article that I wrote on this website. Google loves internal linking. You should often do it.
You may have been to a few blogs and noticed the lower part after the post where there’s a “Related Posts” section. This is done using a plugin. Although it is a useful add-on, it is advisable to put your internal links in texts or images within your post.
Also, make sure that clicking on your internal link will not make your visitor leave the existing window. The window should not open in another tab.
To do that, keep the “open link in a new tab” unticked as per the photo below.
How To Get To The Top Of Search Engines (a.k.a. Ranking Your Post)
Google. Bing. Yahoo. These are just some of the search engines people use when looking for information on the internet. We want to get to the top of search engines hoping they will click on our post and read it.
When you try to get to the top, you are trying to “rank” your article. Page 1, position 1 - the spot we should aim for. Most of the time, just being on page 1 is already good enough.
Here are some of the most important things you should take note of to be on top.
Content Is King
Cliche right? But it’s true. Content will take your blog to heights. Producing quality content will never be out of the norm.
In instances when there is nothing much to talk about the topic, a minimum of 500 words is the least you should aim for. Typically, you should target at least 750 to 2,000 words. More is good, but it can also bore visitors who are not interested in reading long posts.
In that case, you can vary your “content.” Upload or embed a video related to the topic. You can also create images or infographics to break the monotony of texts.
Talk naturally. Communicate to your audience as if you are just talking to a friend. Not all of your visitors are fluent in English. Talk in plain English as much as possible. Avoid highfalutin words or words that are not easy to understand.
Proof-read when you are done writing. There is a free version of Grammarly. It can help you spot basic spelling and grammar mistakes in your writing.
Do Your Keyword Research
All the words in your article can be a keyword. But to help search engines figure out what your overall topic is all about, you need to define what your main keyword is.
Refer to this article on how to find a good keyword for your post.
Put Your Keyword Where It Belongs
In The Title
It is essential that your keyword is in the title. Putting your keyword in the title will automatically put it in the URL of your post, too. However, if your title is too long, you need to delete the irrelevant words and just retain the target keyword in the slug (URL).
If you have already published your article and want to change the title, changing the url will need you to use a redirection plugin (separate lesson). Yoast SEO can do it automatically (separate lesson).
In The First Paragraph
Try to sound natural while incorporating your keyword in the first paragraph. If it doesn’t seem right, use another good keyword that meant the same (semantics - separate lesson).
An H2 or Heading 2
Use your keyword just once in a heading, preferably in H2. Keyword-stuffing is a no-no. Just use it if it sounds appropriate.
To convert your keyword to an H2, highlight the words. Go to the upper left part of WordPress or Google Docs formatting styles and click on Heading 2 to convert the words to an H2. See the image.
Alt-text In An Image
You should have at least one image in your post. File-naming it with your keyword will not work. You should put it in the "alt-text."
To do it, access the image that you have already uploaded in WordPress. Click on it to reveal settings on the right. Look for the "alt-text" section and place your keyword there. See the picture below.
If you have more than one photo in your post, find related keywords and put alt-texts in the other images, too.
When you do external linking, make sure to link to an “authority website” or a high-quality site that is respected by knowledgeable people in that industry.
I did not practice external linking in my baby product reviews. The main reason is that my reviews are either from using the product or research-based opinion. I did not see the need to link to “authority sites” which are usually my competitors.
Without externally linking, I still did manage to get lots of my reviews to Page 1.
Trying to rank by external linking will only work when used appropriately, like how I link to blogging gurus which have been in the industry for 10 plus years.
At the end of your post, ask people to leave a comment, question, or their thoughts about your article.
You can join targeted Facebook groups and other social media platforms to share your content and ask for comments. Normally, blogging groups help each other with comments. Make sure to only approve relevant comments, like asking questions and clarifications.
I have several students in my e-mail list. I ask them to leave the comments in the lesson instead of sending me questions thru e-mail or chat.
People are generally shy to be the first to ask questions or leave their opinion. When they see that there are already existing comments and that you reply to each and every one of them, your readers will feel comfortable engaging, too.
Comments are contents, too! You can get ranked for questions you answer. Instead of simply replying "thank you for your comments," elaborate further. Explain your point and therefore add value to your content.
Depending on your niche, choose where to share your article.
It will be weird if I share my baby product reviews in my Linkedin account - only because my "network" there are all from the post-production or visual effects industry.
To be safe, create a social media account dedicated to your website's blog posts sharing. That way, when you share posts, it will look appropriate and targeted. A Facebook page is a good start. If you are not very social like me, you can join to targeted Facebook groups as explained in this lesson, and share your contents there instead.
Choose the best 2 or 3 social media sites that you are willing to be "active" in. Sharing is just 50% of the job, engaging is another half of the story.
As we all know, social media can be very distracting. If you find it taking too much of your time and your content creation is suffering because of it, consider minimizing your social media efforts.
Remember, content first.