Beginner SEO: 6 Actionable Ways You Can Improve Your SEO Right Now
Hi there, my name is Mike and today you’re going to learn 6 actionable tips that will improve your blog’s SEO right now.
By the end of this post, you will know …
- Why you should be focusing on SEO, even as a new blogger
- Why it’s important to be intentional with your content strategy
- How to write about things people are actually searching for
- How to find out if you can rank in Google for any given keyword
- Why you need to be writing “epic” content
Not only that, but I’ve prepared a bonus 9-step on-page SEO checklist at the end of this post that you can reference every single time you hit “publish” on a new blog post.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I think it’s time for a quick introduction.
Who Am I And Why Should You Listen To Me?
My name is Mike Pearson, I’m a dad to a two-year old little girl (with another on the way!), and I write about how to use SEO to grow your blog traffic over at my site, Stupid Easy SEO and I also blog about personal finance over at my other site, Credit Takeoff.
I believe that SEO is not that complicated (because it’s not!) and I am obsessed with helping other bloggers with SEO, while also showing you how to implement different SEO strategies to grow your traffic and revenue.
Not only that, but I believe in doing it in a way that is easy to understand, actionable, and interesting.
I’m not just an “SEO Blogger”, though.
No, I actually test and implement these SEO strategies on a few different sites that I own.
Last year, one of them did over 1,000,000 unique pageviews …
With 88% of its traffic coming not from Pinterest, but from Google …
All the while, this site made $95,000 in mostly passive affiliate income for me while I was working a full time job and helping take care of my little one.
Of course, I don’t say this to brag—but I hope it gives you an idea of how powerful SEO can be in growing your blog traffic, and also gives you some confidence that by consistently applying some basic principles that I’m about to lay out below, you can start to see some SEO growth of your own so you don’t have to rely solely on Pinterest for traffic 🙂
What Is “SEO” And Why Should You Even Care About It?
If SEO is a confusing topic to you, don’t let it intimidate you.
Even if you’re a beginner blogger, you should be familiar with SEO best practices and understand how it can be beneficial to your blog.
The simplest definition that I have come up with is this:
SEO is building your website so that it ranks higher in Google.
That’s all there really is to it.
(Of course, there’s a lot that goes into how to actually do that, some of which we’ll cover below).
And the end of the day, remember this:
People search for things in Google all the time, and you want your blog to appear high in the search results …
So that the people searching click on it and read your article …
And click your affiliate link …
Or buy your product.
So that’s the first reason you should care about SEO: ranking highly in Google can bring you lots of targeted traffic.
And for any blogger, traffic is often the lifeblood of our business—it’s how we make sales and get people to sign up to our email lists.
Another reason you should care about SEO is that you don’t want to only depend on Pinterest for all your traffic!
Right now, you’re probably all-in on Pinterest and getting as much traffic from their platform as possible, which is definitely a good idea.
Getting traffic from Pinterest is a lot easier and takes a lot less time than getting traffic from Google, so it’s smart to focus your efforts there first.
(This is also why a lot of bloggers totally ignore SEO and Google, which we can use to our advantage).
At the same time, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.
You probably know that Pinterest can change their algorithm at any time, and your traffic can be cut in half overnight, without any warning.
And so working on your SEO and getting traffic from Google can help you diversify your traffic streams, so if Pinterest decides to limit your reach, you’ll still be getting pageviews from Google.
Here’s How You Can Improve Your Blog’s SEO Right Now
I’m a big fan of the 80/20 rule in general, and when it comes to SEO, my 80/20 philosophy says that you really only need to focus on TWO things to help explode your Google traffic: content and links.
Today, we are going to focus on how to improve your site’s content.
The best part? Every tip, tool, and resource I talk about can all be done and used for free.
1. Be Intentional: Every Post You Write Should Help Your Reader
One trap I see a lot of new bloggers fall into is that they start posting and posting without any clear direction or purpose.
They almost treat their blogs like a “diary” where they explain what they did one day, or what they made for dinner, or they write about some awesome trip they took and why they loved it.
But if you want to get traffic and attract an audience, you need to start thinking about your audience and what their problems are.
Because the harsh truth is that most of the time, your readers do not really care about YOU … they care about how you can help them.
For example, if you have a pregnancy blog …
You could write 300 words about how yesterday you had the worst morning sickness and had trouble getting out of bed and didn’t really want to eat anything and so instead of doing anything productive with your day, you just laid in bed all day watching Netflix.
While this may be entertaining to you, your readers probably don’t care all that much.
On the other hand …
You could write an insanely well-researched 2,000 guide about morning sickness, what causes it, when pregnant women can expect to get it, how long they can expect it to last, and 10 amazing tips for helping them to deal with morning sickness!
Now think: if you were a blog reader and you had morning sickness … which post would you rather read?
So for every post you write, I want you to be very intentional.
- Is this post helping someone?
- Is this post solving someone’s problem?
- If I were in my readers’ shoes, would this be something I’d want to read?
How does this help SEO?
Well, when you write content that your readers actually want to read, they stick around on your blog longer, they click into your other posts, and they don’t hit the “back” button to find another article from the search results that actually addresses their problem.
Google tracks all these things, and they will reward you for keeping your readers happy with higher rankings.
2. Start Off As An Expert In ONE Niche (Not 20)
If you’re new to blogging, you’re probably eager to start writing about all sorts of things: parenting, cooking, travel, personal finance, etc.
But when it comes to SEO, it is a much better idea to start off as an expert in one area … and then (and only then), potentially break out into other areas much later.
Why? Because Google takes the “relevance” of your blog into consideration when ranking pages for search queries.
For example …
Let’s say I was just starting to really get into personal finance, and I wanted to start learning about budgeting.
So I hop onto Google and search for the following: “how to make a budget”
And here is what Google thinks are the very best results for this keyword:
Do you notice how every single website in that screenshot is a … personal finance website?
That’s because those personal finance websites are extremely relevant to the keyword “how to make a budget”.
Those sites write almost exclusively about personal finance and money, and because of that, Google sees them as experts in the niche and are ranking them highly for this personal finance-related keyword.
The more relevant you are to a niche, the more likely you are to rank for those niche-related keywords!
Suzi does an excellent job of this on her site here.
Her niche is helping other people and other moms start their own blog … and basically her entire content strategy revolves around that one, singular niche!
(And it seems to be working out pretty well for her).
But how do you actually increase your blog’s relevance?
You pick a niche, stick to it, and dominate it.
That means if you’re a “early retirement” blogger, then tackle every single topic and subtopic there is to write about in the niche.
Soon, you will have dozens and dozens of blog posts on your site all related to one niche and Google will start to see you as extremely relevant to early retirement keywords and rank you higher for those terms.
3. Find Topics People Are Actually Searching For
After you’ve been blogging for a while, chances are, you’re eventually going to start running out of your own ideas to write about!
But don’t worry. There are several ways you can find new blog post ideas that you know people are actually searching for.
One way I like to do this is to browse around forums related to my niche.
Forums are a great place to look for blog post ideas because the sole reason they exist is to allow people interested in the niche to ask questions and discuss topics specific to the niche!
For example, let’s see you’re in the pregnancy niche and you want to see if you can find any post ideas in a pregnancy forum.
You can hop onto Google and type in “pregnancy forums”:
Depending on your niche, you should get a handful of good forums to check out.
You’ll click into that second result and see what you can find.
Immediately you’re greeted with a page that has a “Hot Topics” section, which sounds perfect for finding some ideas that have a lot of conversation around them.
So you click on that link, and after about three seconds of scrolling you see this:
Sleep when baby sleeps …
Personally, as a new dad myself, I know that when my wife was staying home with our daughter after she was born, my wife made it a point to sleep when baby was asleep.
This also intuitively sounds like a topic that more moms would like to read more about, and if you’re a pregnancy/mom blogger, it’s probably something that you could offer great advice about!
But … before you decide that this is something you want to create a post about, it’s worth checking to see that people are actually searching for this keyword (or a related keyword) in Google.
Because if no one is searching for it, then you’re not going to be able to get a lot of Google traffic to our post!
Fortunately there is a free Chrome plugin that quickly allows you to see (estimated) Google search volume for every keyword. It’s called Keywords Everywhere and you can download it here.
Once you have it installed, just head on over to Google and type in your keyword “sleep when baby sleeps”.
You can see that the Keywords Everywhere extension has added a little search volume data directly under the keyword (“Volume: 260/mo), which is great!
(Side note: people always want to know “what’s a good search volume”? My answer: it depends! It depends on your niche, how you monetize, and what your goals are: display ads, affiliate offers, list building, selling your own product, etc. The short answer is that 260 searches per month is pretty decent search volume and something that is worth going after IMO.)
Not only that, but if you scroll down to the bottom of the search results page, Google will show you a bunch of related searches, and the Keywords Everywhere extension shows the search volume for those keywords too.
And what do you know, there’s another keyword related to “sleep when baby sleeps” that gets 140 searches a month itself:
So if you were writing a post about how and why moms should sleep when their babies are sleeping, you could add a H2 titled “Are You Scared To Sleep When Baby Sleeps?” and add some advice in there as well.
Between just these two keywords alone, we are looking at 400 searches per month!
4. Check That You Have A Chance To Rank For Your Keywords
Ok, just because you’ve found a juicy keyword that is right up your alley and that you know people are searching for … it doesn’t necessarily mean you should write about it.
Because the keyword may be so “competitive” that you really don’t have a reasonable shot at ranking in Google’s top 10 for it.
If you think about it, whenever you Google a keyword, they can only show you 10 results at a time. In other words—only 10 sites on the entire internet can rank on page 1 for any given keyword. (And page 1 is really all that matters; seriously, how often do you click on page 2 or page 3?)
And if there are 10 other sites that have more authority (backlinks) than you do, or are more relevant, or simply have better content … then it’s going to be tough for you to rank.
So before deciding to move forward with a keyword, you need to check out the competition and see if you can rank.
How do you do that?
First, download the free MozBar extension for Chrome (you may need to create a free account).
Second, head over to Moz’s free Open Site Explorer tool and plug in your domain and hit “search”.
You should then see something that looks like this:
Here, we’re looking at Suzi’s blog and we can see that her Moz “Domain Authority”, or DA, is a 36 (Moz does update these numbers monthly so it’s possible Suzi’s DA has changed since I first wrote this).
What the heck does a Domain Authority of 36 mean?
According to Moz, DA “predicts the ranking potential” for any given site, mostly based on how many links you have from other sites, and the quality of those links.
Basically, the higher DA number you have, generally the better chance you have of ranking in Google for any given keyword.
Is a DA of 36 any “good”? Well, it’s all relative to your competition and who else is ranking in the SERPs, as you’ll see below.
It is critical to stress here that this DA number is only a very, very loose guideline and in no way should mean anything other than giving us a general idea of how much authority a site has—so use it as a quick check, not as gospel, and don’t obsess over your number.
Anyway, make note of your DA number, and let’s keep going.
Let’s do a different example here, and say you’re a gardening blogger, and you were looking around in some gardening forums and found an interesting keyword, “java fern care”, which gets 720 searches per month.
Then, you want to take your keyword, open up a new tab in Google Chrome, and with your MozBar extension clicked on (it should light up in blue), type in your keyword and hit search.
Here’s what the Google search results page shows, with the MozBar turned on (again, you may have to create a free account and be signed in):
You can see that the first three sites ranking for this keyword have DAs of 33, 22, and 25, respectively.
(You can safely ignore Amazon, YouTube, and any other similar domains when doing this analysis since they’re generally not considered our competition—we’re not a video-sharing site, or an e-commerce site, for example).
But how do we analyze what we’re looking at?
Remember when I said above that DA is all relative to your competition and who else is ranking?
Well, if you have a gardening blog and your DA is, say, 37, then this is looking like a very promising search result!
The first 3 results all have lower DAs than your own, so if you can create an amazing piece of content, you should be able to rank highly for this keyword.
Even if your blog is newer and your DA is only 20, this is still a promising keyword. The second and third results are only a few DA points higher than your own, which is no big deal.
Again, DA is only a loose measure of authority, and doing any kind of competitor analysis like this is definitely more art than science, but here is a general DA guideline that I like to follow when doing my analysis:
- If the first page has a handful of sites that are within 10 DA points of your own, then it’s fine to go after that keyword. For example, you have a DA of 42 and the top 3 sites ranking for a keyword are DA 49, 45, and 39.
- If you have a brand new blog, then you’re going to start with a DA of 0 (or close to it) … in that case, look for keywords where there are a handful of sites ranking with a DA of 30 or lower.
So in our “java fern care” example above, even if you had a brand new gardening blog, I would still tell you to go after the keyword because I don’t think it’s too competitive …
Assuming that your content is up to par.
Which brings me to my next point.
5. Write Amazing Content
Ok, now that you’ve identified a topic that’s related to your niche, and which people are actually searching for, and which you have a reasonable shot at ranking for, you now have to actually write the post.
Remember that Google has ONE goal with their search engine: to show the very best content to their users for every single keyword.
That means that when you’re writing your blog posts, you want to make them amazing!
Now, you’ll see a lot about how long form content does well in Google, and that’s partially true, but it really is niche-specific.
What qualifies as “long form” for the keyword “how to tie a shoe” is going to be a lot different than the keyword “how to buy a house”. It’s all about context.
Let’s say I’m a productivity blogger, and I want to write a post about “how to bullet journal”.
Now, most bloggers would just sit down to write, and type out whatever comes to their mind, maybe include a few keywords here and there, and hit publish.
But what you should do to make sure your content is up to par—before you even sit down to write—is to simply search for your target keyword, and analyze what Google is already ranking.
So with “how to bullet journal”, I can see that this post is ranking #1 when I search.
I encourage you to click that link and open the post because what you’ll find is a great example of “amazing content”.
It clocks in at 5,000 words … is well-formatted and easy on the eyes … contains tons of custom photos and is incredibly helpful, actionable, and interesting.
In other words, I’m not surprised that it’s ranking #1!
So if you were to write a post about “how to bullet journal”, your goal would be to create a piece of content that is just as epic.
That means it would also be very in-depth and detailed, it would contain pictures of your own bullet journal, it would also be beautifully formatted with lots of headers and bullets to make it easy to read, and it would also have to be insanely valuable, written from your point of view.
Because if you don’t do that—if, instead, you type out a 500 word post with zero images—your chances of ranking highly in Google for keyword are practically zero!
So before you decide to write your post, take a look at what’s already ranking.
Google is practically giving you the answer with their search results and the type of the content they want to see.
Your job is to go out and create it.
6. Optimize With Related Keywords & On Page SEO
I like to say that when you’re creating content, even for SEO, that you should write for your readers first, then optimize for Google later.
In other words, you don’t really have to worry about keywords and SEO while you’re writing your post.
You want to write as naturally as possible—like you’re talking to a friend, but in an expert, friendly kind of way—because if you “write for Google” you’re going to come off as robotic, unnatural, and possibly even spammy (which is not good).
But to ensure your content is as topically relevant as possible, I like to use a couple of free tools that help generate related keywords that I can sprinkle into my posts.
So after you’ve written your epic piece of content, this is how to optimize it with additional, related keywords.
One of my favorite free tools for making sure my content includes related keywords is LSIGraph.
Just enter your main keyword, hit search, and you’ll be taken to a page like this:
So using our “how to bullet journal” example, you can see that LSIGraph has spit out a bunch of related keywords that we may want to think about inserting into our post (not all of these will be relevant to your post).
For example, you could potentially include an H2 called “Using a Bullet Journal at Work”, and another one called “Bullet Journal Setup”.
By including these related keywords, you’re helping Google understand your content better and better match your site with user intent.
Another great free tool that I like to check for related keywords is Answer The Public. It works by entering a keyword and it will return a whole bunch of questions that you could potentially answer in your post.
Here’s what it looks like for our bullet journal example:
You can use these results the same way as with LSIGraph — by scanning them and looking for any relevant questions to potentially include in your content, such as “Where To Buy A Bullet Journal”.
Need more help? Here are a few bonuses to guide you along
Ok, those are 6 tips you can implement today to help improve your SEO, even if you’re brand new to SEO.
I still follow this guidance when I’m creating content for my $95,000 affiliate site because it has helped my SEO growth tremendously.
And I want to help you achieve the same kind of success, so I’ve put together a couple of bonuses to help you along.
First, I’ve created a 9-step on-page SEO checklist that you can follow before you hit “publish” on your next blog post.
Second, I’ve put together an over-the-shoulder video of me running through the checklist and explaining each step so you can fully understand it, while showing you plenty of examples that you can follow.
To get access to these bonuses, just sign up for them here.
About the author: Mike Pearson is the blogger behind Stupid Easy SEO, where he helps other bloggers rank higher in Google with SEO and get more organic traffic to their blogs so they can make more sales. You can check out his SEO For Bloggers guide here.
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Thank you for the article. This is great information for the seasoned SEO and beginner/business proprietor who may be attempting to spare a few dollars and find out some seo on their own 🙂
Thank you so much for all these SEO tips. You have outlined them in such a simple way to understand.
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I am a beginner and learning so much from your blog. Thanks
Thank you so much for the tips! This has totally helped me simplify SEO in my brain. I know I have a lot more to learn but this information helped me feel not so intimidated by SEO. Thanks again!
You made it so simple, I loved your SEO tips as a beginner.
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Thank you Mike, what an amazing article and yes simple to understand and apply.! Thxs Suzi for connecting Mike to us. I have read many articles on SEO but this one is so easy to follow!
Thanks Mike for such informative and useful tips. It’s hard to find good quality free information like this post. I loved your tip about finding blog posts on forums, I will definitely implement your tips.
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Thank you for including tools to go with your tips, it’s always helpful to see what other people are actually using to make it feel less like guessing and more like doing things.
Great post, Mike! I’ve been devouring your posts on stupideasyseo.com for sometime now. Feels good to see you everywhere. Here, Michelle’s blog… Kudos Man
This post is great! I have started implementing these strategies already. I have searched online over and over and haven’t been able to find advise that makes sense and that I fully understand. Thank you!
Fantastic post! Thank you Mike!
Wow! This article was so helpful. SEO can be scary and daunting but this article made SEO seem doable. Thanks for all the resources you included and for the break down. Can’t wait to implement them in my articles.
Thanks Mike for sharing this with us and as always, Suzi, you’re amazing!
This is a great post. I would surely be applying all the strategies you discussed. however, there is a question I would like to ask, how many blog posts do you have to write even if you are writing uper awesome content.
I mean, you still need a little amount of content on your website before you thinking about monetizing it? isn’t it?
Great post! This will such a helpful addition to what I learn in Post by Number! I’ve not seen these tips before and SEO seems doable now. Thanks Mike!
Thanks Mike, got some new techniques for SEO from your article 🙂
Awesome post, didn’t know about these chrome extensions and they are fab! Thanks Mike!
This is so helpful! I can’t quite figure out how to get Google to display the stats, like volume, that I see above. How can I access this feature?
Sadie seeking joy
This is an amazing, very well thought out article! Great SEO advice, especially actually writing great content!
Thanks for such an informative article about SEO
This may be the most informative, easy to follow blogging post I’ve ever read. Thanks to both of you!
Great SEO now seems to be within my reach! This was great content that was easy to read and understand.
It’s definitely within your reach—thanks, Sheri!
Great post, Mike! I use many of these tips myself, but you reminded me of a few I had forgotten about. Thanks for reminding me of the Chrome Extension “Keywords Everywhere.” I couldn’t remember for the life of me how I got those search volumes to appear in SERPS. 🙂 Now, I’m off to grab the checklist…
Thanks so much, Heather! Enjoy the checklist!
This is by far the most actionable article on SEO that I’ve read so far! Wow Suzi, how did you find Mike? I actually found the name of your website funny until I started reading the post and my have you convinced me that SEO can really be “stupid easy”.
Thanks for sharing Mike and thanks for bringing this to us Suzi.
Glad you found it actionable, Lily! SEO doesn’t have to be as hard as most “experts” make it out to be!
I just wanted to say thank you for this post. This is one of the most helpful SEO posts I’ve read! The step-by-step instructions and the Chrome extensions are awesome!
Appreciate that, Brooke! Yes, those Chrome extensions are really helpful!
Wow! Such great info, thank you!
This is helpful – thank you for sharing the tools you are using
Glad you liked it, Katy!