Search Engine Optimization (SEO) usually sends cold chills up and down my spine. I used to avoid it like hanging out a mother-in-law convention until I realized that SEO was the key to attracting lots of awesome readers. That’s why we’re going to focus on it as a tool for getting your first 1,000 blog readers.
Here’s the deal - you shouldn’t spend hours stressing about keywords, canonical link structure, and other migraine-inducing search topics.
Instead, I’m giving you permission to be a little lazy with this one. Thankfully doing the SEO basics is good enough for most blogs since the WordPress platform already handles much of the SEO heavy lifting.
For today, here’s a handy 7-Step guide to doing the absolute minimal SEO tweaks while getting the best results
Step 1: Install the WordPress for SEO Plugin.
This plugin will make it easy to take care of high-level SEO configuration. For example, the plugin will automatically create a XML sitemap. The sitemap makes it easy for the search engines to find new and existing blog posts. The plugin will also alert Bing and Google that an updated sitemap is available.
Once you install the plugin, it will take you through a quick tutorial to explain all of the SEO options you can tweak. I suggest using most of the default settings. This is a super powerful plugin that makes it ridiculously easy to look like an SEO ninja.
Step 2: Pick research keyphrases to relevant and SEO friendly posts.
Research keyphrases are more than two-words long and point to a user question. For example “best jogging stroller”,”top schools in Alpharetta Georgia” could easily end with question-mark and reveal a reader looking for solid content.
Use your keyword research tool to see how many searches are made for each term. Pay attention to the “local search” volume if you are a local retailer or service provider. Also take a look at competition for the keyword. You’ll tend to see less competition for “longtail keywords”, keywords with more than 3 keywords. Don’t get hung up on these numbers, the idea is to pick good search volume keywords with relatively little competition.
Make a list of 5 keywords that you want to target with your posts. You'll use the list for the next step.
Step #3: Write future posts with your target keywords in mind.
Keep your list of target keywords handy as you brainstorm post ideas for your editorial calendar. Look for opportunities to write meaty how-to posts that naturally incorporate your keyphrase. It will be easy to write excellent reader and SEO friendly posts since your keyphrases address reader problems
Warning - don’t fall into the trap of writing for the search engines. All you want to do is let Google and other search engines know that your post has relevant information for the chosen keyphrase.
Step 4: Follow the SEO Checklist for Every Post.
Get in the habit of completing your SEO chores before publishing every post. Once you install the WordPress for SEO plugin, you'll get an easy area for completing some of these tasks. Before you hit the publish button Take time to take a close look at:
- Post Title: See if you can get your keyword into the title of your post. Again don’t force the issue.
- Post Description: Consider writing a custom description for your posts that includes your target keyword. Remember that Google will use your post description in the search engine listing so make it interesting teaser.
- Post Tags: There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule for the Post Tags. Like with most SEO techniques, focus seems to work best. Pick three keywords that accurately describe your post’s subject. And, yes include your target keyword.
- Image Alt-Tags: Since every post should have a photo use the opportunity to include your keyword in the alt-tags. Make the alt-tag reader friendly since it will be shown for email readers who have images turned off in their email program.
Step 5: Make Your Social Share Buttons Visible Google is using “social signals” to determine how authoritative and relevant your copy is to your audience. Of course, Google’s favorite social signal is Google+ and +1 buttons. With Google's aggressive promotion and integration of Google+ it just makes sense to include Google+ as one of your three social share buttons.
Regardless, make sure you put your social share buttons under your headline and at the bottom of the post.
Step 6: Create Hub Pages
Neil Patel at QuickSprout offered a great suggestion to create Hub pages for content on your blog. These hub pages help your readers get to buried content on your blog. This works especially well if you have more than 50 posts on your blog. Here’s an example from Problogger:
The added benefit is that the hub pages work like ad-hoc sitemaps categorizing content and giving the search engines more posts to index.
Step 7: Watch Your Page Load Times
Google is paying a lot of attention to your blog’s page load times, the amount of time it takes for your page to fully display all of its content. Research has shown that fast sites get better conversions and are considered more relevant prompting Google to reward fast loading sites.
You can check your page load times at with at Pingdom. Obviously the quicker the better is the rule here. Most experts agree that your page should be loading within 3-5 seconds.
The main culprit for slow loading blog pages are plugins. These irresistible pieces of code can potentially slow your blog to a crawl. If your pages are loading slowly then start deactivating and deleting plugins that aren’t absolutely necessary. Listen, I’m a plugin addict too but they aren’t worth getting dinged by Google.
1,000 Blog Reader Challenge Participant?
Complete these 7 steps today. Optimizing your posts will be important for achieving your 1,000 Reader goal. By the way, if you are not in on the challenge, then read this post to see what it's all about. We are getting a little technical in this post so go ahead and ask your questions in the comments.