SEO is, basically, Search Engine Optimization. What that means in very simple terms is that Google considers that your website is optimized for search engines. If someone searches for a particular phrase or keyword and lands on your website, that means your site is well optimized for that search term.

The advantage with self hosted WordPress blogs is that you definitely have an advantage over other platforms such as Wix or Weebly or Strikingly or even Blogger- which is funnily enough, Google’s own blogging platform.

However, this is not to say that you can’t do well in SEO if you don’t have a self-hosted WordPress website. It’s just that some of the techniques that work for those won’t apply to you.

This post contains Referral/Affiliate links. What that means is if you click on any of the links and make a purchase, I get a commission at no extra cost to you. Read my complete disclosure policy here.

Why I am qualified to talk about SEO

I’ve been blogging for nearly 14 years, but in terms of SEO and content optimization, I worked exclusively in that domain for well over 3 years in my capacity as the Chief Editor of a parenting website, BuzzingBubs.

As part of my role, I worked on ensuring that most (if not all) of the content on the site was designed specifically for parents looking for answers to their challenges. This could range from psychological and emotional challenges to practical ones such as which were the best spots in the city to take the kids for a fun weekend trip.

Given that this was also a hyper-local website (the location is in Bangalore, India) the nature of search terms and the quality of the traffic was also very well refined. It was not surprising then, that well over 85% of the website traffic came through search engines.

This, to me, was both fascinating and intriguing. It inspired me to dive deeper into the process of SEO and figure out how we could strike a balance between extremely useful content and writing that was conveyed in a friendly and conversational tone.

Let’s dive into some broad principles when it comes to SEO, even if you’re completely new to the process.


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SEO for Beginners

TYPES OF SEO

SEO can be broadly classified into on page SEO and Off page SEO.

We then have Keyword research and how we can use it to leverage our website strength.

Then comes using Google Analytics to track your progress and a little later we can use Google Search Console to dive deeper into the nuances of content optimization.

But before all of that, the very first step to keep in mind is probably the most important one. And that is, what you need to focus on above all else.


The Number One Thing to Focus on when it comes to SEO

In my 14 years as a blogger (and over 7 years as an active one), I’ve come to realize that everything about SEO is rather simple. The problem is that we tend to over-complicate things because most of us creators tend to write from the perspective of traffic.

That’s not really a bad thing, by the way.

Traffic means that people are reading the post, are likely to turn into a loyal audience and ultimately help you generate revenue either through ad revenue or through selling your services and products or affiliate marketing.

No, the bigger problem is this: People approach SEO from the perspective of just traffic.

In my 10 SEO Secrets e-book, I share some very basic and very practical tips to help you understand that sweet spot of writing naturally and for SEO at the same time.

Following just 3 of those tips helps my content rank on Page 1 for most long-tail keywords.


For instance, take this post: How You Can Create More Time in your Day to Do the Things You Love

The day that I published it, it was already on page 1 for the term ‘How to create more time in your day’ alongside the likes of Oprah.com.



So, what’s the secret, exactly?

Start with the reader. Always start by putting yourself in the reader’s shoes and approaching every piece of content from the user perspective. When your objective is to help the reader the rest of it will follow very naturally.

If your intention is to become the go-to person in a particular niche, remember that authentic writing and service-oriented content will win out over everything else.

And when it does, you’d be pleasantly surprised to see how your content naturally appears when people search for it.

In other words, don’t stress about keyword stuffing or maximising the potential of a blog post when you first publish it. Write from the heart and write with the intention to help your reader.


Interestingly, many of my posts which get search engine traffic do so because they were written without worrying too much about SEO.

So, does SEO not matter then? Not quite. Let me explain.

If you write with SEO in mind, you’d struggle with your content being seen and found. If you write with the reader in mind, it’s always easier to optimize it better for search engines.


ON PAGE SEO

On-page SEO is where you can look at the content directly within your control and see how you can improve it for better results. In other words, on Page SEO is directly within your grasp.

The one plugin I recommend installing, if you are on self-hosted WordPress is the Yoast SEO plugin. You don’t need the pro version; the free works better than anything else.


Create In-Depth Content

What Google and your readers expect when they land on your website is that your content is of a high-quality, free from errors and directly solves the problem that your audience is facing. I’m going to show you the example of my post on How to use Smart Bio for your Instagram link in bio.

Now, this post, although published nearly two years ago, consistently gets search engine traffic by ranking #1 on Google for the search terms ‘Smart Bio’, ‘Smart Bio for Instagram’ etc. The more detailed your key phrase (also called the long tail keyword), the more likely you are to get the most targeted audience for that post.


Create Evergreen Content

Now the reason this matters is because search traffic, from a sustainable perspective, always does better on evergreen posts over seasonal posts.

For example, in the food domain, an example of evergreen content could be ‘The Best Breakfast Recipes for Vegetarians’ or The Best Foods to eat after a workout.

This doesn’t mean you don’t create seasonal content, but ensure that there is a higher balance of evergreen content that will ensure high quality traffic to your website. Examples of seasonal content would include topics such as , ‘My Favourite Halloween recipes’ or ‘Top Christmas cake recipes you should try’.

One rule of thumb to remember is to keep updating the evergreen and seasonal content whenever there are changes you make to your recipes or any of your content.


Finding the Right Kind of Content to Create

Your best friend for this is Google Search. You literally don’t have to look too far. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and then start searching for key words in your niche.

In my very-nominally priced e-book ($10) ‘How to Use Free Keyword Research Tools for SEO’, I go over the different steps that you can use to find out more about the right kind of keywords you can include in your blog posts.

One Pro tip: Don’t neglect Pinterest search in your search for keywords. Unlike what most people think, Pinterest is not a social media channel but a visual search engine. It’s perfect when you use it that way. I’ve never used Pinterest from a social media perspective but always used it for tons of research when I am working on keywords for my content.

My course, The 12 Week Pinterest Roadmap, lays out a comprehensive step by step tutorial for Pinterest success.


The Right Kind of Traffic

It’s one thing to focus on keywords and on page SEO, but the more important thing to focus on is the measurement of the right metrics.

In my post here, 7 things that are more important than page views, I break down the different parameters that a content creator or business owner needs to examine.

For instance, as a blogger looking to drive targeted traffic and generate revenue through ad income, your focus should not just be on page views, but on the dwell time on your pages. That means, how long is your reader spending on your website? That improves the quality of traffic significantly.

Similarly, as a business owner, your primary pages to optimize should be your key target pages and landing pages which refer to your services, your products and your sales pages. If a reader spends enough time on it and makes the decision to sign up for a session with you, that means the quality of the traffic is exactly what you hoped for.


Technical Tips to Improve SEO for your website

Don’t worry, these are all doable by people with zero background in tech.

#1- Ensure that your site is responsive on mobile. Enter it here and check whether your site is compatible with mobile devices.

#2- If possible, upgrade to a dedicated server for your hosting plan. Now this is a bit of an investment, so do it if your primary focus is going to be high-quality traffic. A page that takes forever to load will cause people to bounce away from it and we don’t want that. Speak to your hosting provider to get more details. The one I use and recommend is Chemicloud WordPress Hosting.

#3- Your images. These are the number one culprit for delayed loading times. The first thing you need to do is invest in ShortPixel which will automatically compress your images before you upload them to your dashboard. The second thing to remember is to only upload JPG files to your dashboard and not PNG files. These can be extremely heavy files and weigh down your site unnecessarily.

#4- Use internal links judiciously. You’re welcome to link to other posts on your blog within the body of the post. When you do, ensure that you don’t overdo it. Stuffing too many links, much like keyword stuffing, can lead to a penalty on your site.


The thing to keep in mind is that every post is going to be crawled by Google bots. While the people working at Google are human beings, the bot crawlers are not. All they see will be excessive use of the same keywords as well as too many links in what they call the body of the post. Keep these both to a minimum. A simple rule of thumb would be to add only one hyperlink for every 500 words of text.


The beauty about Google’s tools (apart from the fact that they are free to use) is that they are directly linked to the search terms as well as more valuable metrics on how to know where your traffic is coming from.

Please click here to watch the tutorial on how to install Google Analytics on your self-hosted WordPress site.

Then, install Google Search Console based on this tutorial.

How to add your WordPress site to Google Search Console using the Yoast Plugin

Remember, SEO doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to appeal to your ideal audience. The rest of it takes care of itself.


Your 20 Day Blogging Bootcamp (This one’s free and is a complete step by step approach to getting started with your blog)

My 3-Book SEO Bundle that contains these books for the price of just $30

a) How to do Keyword Research using Free tools

b) How to get started with on page SEO

c) 10 SEO secrets for Bloggers and Content Creators

Google Analytics E book (By Debbie Gartner)

The most in-depth course on SEO by the one and only George Kao at a very affordable price

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Shailaja V

I’m a blog, social media and content coach with over 13 years of writing, blogging and social media experience.

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Woman smiling into the camera while seated at a work desk which has a laptop, a camera, a clock and a plant on it. SEO for Beginners