Using SEO To Grow Your Blog Traffic Organically

Featured image with text "Search Engine Optimization (SEO)" with topics covered in the article.
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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can sound tricky and hard to implement on your blog. But, SEO doesn’t have to be dark and mysterious if you take the time to learn some tricks.

To gain organic traffic from search engines like Google, there are methods of research and optimization you can use to help you rank better in search results: SEO.

What follows is a lengthy snapshot into SEO. Feel free to look for helpful articles to read about a given topic if you want to learn more.

The below information works for ANY niche, not just the parenting niche.

To see a checklist for each post for SEO click here.

What is SEO? image with signs outlining different SEO topics.

What is SEO?

There is a TON of information (some conflicting) on SEO (Search Engine Optimization). You will see “SEO” almost EVERYWHERE you read and learn about blogging.

SEO is the metric by which your site and all it’s pages are graded to decide where to rank your site on search engine search results.

For the top search engine (Google), the goal for all bloggers is to rank in the top 10 to be shown on the first page of the search results.

Importance Of SEO

With SEO almost being a “buzz word” in the blogging world, just how important is it?

Well, SEO is very important if you wish to grow your blog traffic without relying entirely on social media.

Think about it – what happens if your number one source of traffic (“referrer”), like Pinterest or Facebook, suddenly disappears or the way the social network functions (the “algorithm”) changes? You could lose ALL of your traffic overnight.

By doing some research, putting in place a good site structure and completing a checklist of tasks, you are able to grow your blog organically without all the work of constant social media updates and the scare of relying on one or two sources for traffic.

But, when it comes to writing your content here’s a quick tip: it is far more important to create amazing content than follow all the suggested SEO “rules”.

That’s right.

While SEO is something you should familiarize yourself with (and the information below should help boil it down for you), there is more to SEO than just using keywords.

See this post to see plugins you can use as a loose guide for SEO.

Google not only wants great, keyword rich articles (without “stuffing” them in irrelevant places), but they want content that they can trust to suggest to their users. Google also looks at (source):

  • Loading time of the page – if it takes too long to load your page, the user will likely leave right away to find a “better” site, which either doesn’t log as a visit to your site (if the reader leaves before the page fully loads) or increases your bounce rate (see below). 0-4 seconds is optimal.
  • Bounce rate of the users who visit your site (meaning readers that navigate away after seeing your site after viewing a single page).
  • Length of time on the page after entering your site. If the reader stays on your site longer, that indicates your content was 1) what they were looking for, and 2) actually has content worth reading.
  • A visually pleasing site. Although this isn’t measurable, an unappealing site may increase bounce rate. It’s suggested that the more white space on the site, the lower the bounce rate (though this is likely a big generalization) (source).
  • Mobile friendly – your site must be optimized for mobile devices (“responsive”).

See this post with plugins that may help optimize your images to cut down on your page loading time.

Content pillars section header image showing a pathway with pillars on either side.

This section is included in another post for easy access and so you can save just this section as needed. CLICK HERE

Content Pillars

Google is looking for how your content relates to itself. When linking internally to other posts on your site, try to only link to RELEVANT content within the same Category.

Your topics can range quite drastically on your blog.

That’s ok!

While it’s great to have a focused blog, many of us have a hard time narrowing the focus down to one or two topics.

However, Google does want sites to be targeted. They want to send their users to the best content on the internet.

That means they will look at your bounce rate, page loading speed, links (internal and external – incoming and going out), post length, header usage, keyword usage and many other factors to determine how “trustworthy” you are to rank high in the search results.

But a huge factor in SEO is having a clear flow of content on your site.

For example, a site may choose to write about the following topics:

  • Pregnancy
  • Gluten free recipes
  • Babies
  • Toddlers
  • Motherhood
  • Organization

While this is just fine, it may be better to fit some of those into the same categories or focus more on specific topics (“niching down”):

  • Babies
  • Toddlers
  • Parenthood (could branch into recipes, organization, motherhood and pregnancy)

But what you want to do is try to keep a minimum of Categories (more on this later) and show Google through linking that your content relates to itself in a way that makes sense to the reader.

For example, if you have a post in the Babies category that links to unrelated recipes or tips on organizing your kitchen, this is confusing to your reader and you aren’t likely to get a click – it’s not the information your reader is there to find and increases your chances of the reader bouncing rather than clicking on content they may actually want to read.

See this post to learn about how you can do content maps to plan out your categories and content pillars.

Category Landing Pages

The best way to segment your site is to provide a Category landing page for your readers.

Providing this clear navigation will help you not only provide exact information for your readers but show Google that you have a structure in place.

See this post for a little more information about Category landing pages.

Categories vs tags in SEO section header image with interlinked squares.

Categories vs Tags

In order to provide a clear structure of information on your site, it is important to understand the distinction between Categories and Tags.

Categories

Categories are used to create groups of content.

While it is possible for a post to fit into more than one Category, the general rule of thumb is to create content that fits into one Category only.

When choosing a Category name, it’s good practice to be clear and, if possible, use keywords Google understands (like you would want to use “Breastfeeding” rather than a strange phrase like “boob milk” – yep just wrote that…).

Essentially, you are creating a database of information and you want Google to be able to clearly map it out.

For SEO purposes, you will also want to include a keyword rich description for each Category.

A screenshot of the Categories section highlighting where you can find the Description field to fill out.

Tags

Tags are completely optional and are used to describe the content you have created.

The Tags that you use may be used across multiple Categories to imply similar content, but you want to be careful not to use too many (you don’t want to confuse Google).

Each and every tag that you create will create a new “Tag archive”. For every Tag you create, another segment is created on your site that Google will catalog. If you click on a Tag (if visible to your reader), the user will then see a list of posts that apply to that Tag just as if it were a Category.

So if you create a post and add 10-20 new tags, you are created 10-20 additional types of content on your site! That’s a LOT!

Tags can be useful from a user perspective and to help you show related content to Google. BUT, try to stick to a consistent list of Tags you use rather than creating new ones every time.

It’s up to you if you want to use Tags or not.

Note that some themes and settings allow Tags to be displayed on your posts and pages. Many bloggers would say to remove the view to keep readers in a particular Category, but others want to keep the Tags visible for ease of navigation for their readers. Up to you. There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer to this question (that this mama could find).

An image of keys with the word Keywords over the top as a section header.

The content in this section is also in a stand-alone post for easy reference here.

Keywords

Before getting into keywords, let’s reiterate that the number one goal you should focus on is creating amazing content for your readers.

It is good to focus on using keywords people use to search for content on the web. But, if you find keywords you want to use and try to smoosh them into your post, your content may suffer (and so will your readership with a cascade effect of HURTING your SEO ranking).

Make sure every word you use and every sentence you write is clear, relevant and (most of the time) conversational in tone, regardless of the keywords you use.

But keywords ARE important…so how in the world do you do it “right”?

Well, before writing a single word, here is a method for narrowing your keywords down FOR FREE:

  • Think about what you want to cover in your post.
  • Write down every topic you want to cover (these can be your headings!).
  • Google those topics and open other articles that covers the same or similar content, then see if they cover content you haven’t thought about. Add those to your topic list.
  • If you haven’t already, download the free Keywords Everywhere browser extension for Google (for Chrome or Firefox).
  • Now go back to your topics list. Google each topic (one by one) and look at the Keywords Everywhere data based on the search results.
  • To the right of the search results you will see a list of “Related Keywords” and “People Also Search For” keywords.
Example Related Keywords for “Toddler tantrums” from Google’s Keywords Everywhere browser extension.

Example People Also Searched For for “Toddler tantrums” from Google’s Keywords Everywhere browser extension.
  • Look at the keywords (and “long tail keywords” meaning a phrase) and pick ones that you think you can rank for. This is the tough part. The search volume per month is in the first column after the keywords. You will generally want to target a medium to low volume keyword that is greater than 0 searches per month. If nobody is searching for the keywords, there’s no use in trying to target them in your content.
  • Make a list of the keywords you want to target for that topic and move to your next one.
  • Now, search for the one major topic of your article and use the keywords suggested (keeping the above info in mind) to write a keyword rich title for your content. 

SEO TIP: Make sure that the keywords you choose match the USER INTENT of their search. That means that you need to choose keywords that a user will use to actually search for your content. If a user searches for something but is shown content they weren’t looking for, they will bounce and your ranking may fall.

Another tool you can use to get ideas is go to AskThePublic and enter keywords or phrases you are thinking to write about. The site will return common questions associated with those words!

Now that you have your keywords chosen, try to use each of them throughout your post. For the main keywords you are targeting for the entire piece of content, try to make sure the keywords are found in the following areas:

  • The content title
  • The content URL (“permalink” in the “slug”)
  • Meta data (“meta description”) for the post (the summary of your post that will appear in search results)
  • First or second paragraph of your content
  • In the headers of your content (this is your topic keywords you researched)
  • In the alt descriptions of your images (source)

It sounds like a lot, but once you get in the swing of things it’s not a lot of work to implement.

To find your meta description to update it with your summary and keywords, scroll to the bottom of your post to see the field. Note that some plugins may add an area to do this in the same area.

Again, make sure that your content flows for your reader. If you read your article out loud, can you hear where the keywords are? If so, try to smooth them out into your sentences so it sounds conversational.

SEO TIP: Make sure to type out any numbers you have in your post title in the URL (“permalink”).

Post Length section header with an image of rulers.

Post Length

There is a great debate on post length for your content when it comes to SEO.

If your article is too short it may not have enough value to your readers (or for SEO). A short article that doesn’t answer all the questions your reader may have may increase your bounce rate (the people that come to your article and leave right away) and time spent on your page (factors in SEO).

What you want to do is create the BEST article about your topic, no matter if it’s 1,000 words or 10,000 words.

According to Stupid Simple SEO (course), here are the average word counts for the top 10 Google search results (front page of results):

  • #1 – average 1,800
  • #2 – average 2,000
  • #10 – average 1,750

But, that’s just an average. If you google a topic you want to cover, look at the #1 spot on Google. Many times the posts can be 5,000+ words!!

So if you want to optimize for SEO, try for 1,500+ words. However, if you can create an amazing article with less words, fantastic!

Headers and bold text header image showing black pencils with one red pencil.

Headings and Bolded Text

To help your reader navigate your content, you will want to include headings and bolded text.

Not only will these help your readers, but also show Google that you are segmenting your content in a meaningful way AND helping your reader see the important information in your article.

Headings

Headings (H2, H3, etc) not only help with your search engine results (SEO) but are a fantastic way to help your readers follow your content (especially on mobile).

When you have determined your keywords for your article, try using them in your headings (where relevant) to help Google when it crawls your site (when Google scans your content).

Bold Important Text

Readers sometimes skim an article (another reason for headings!) before taking the time to actually read it.

Especially if your article isn’t something you can easily add headings to, try bolding sentences or phrases you want to jump out and grab attention (especially if you are highlighting an opt in or offer).

Here is an article that talks more about headings and bolded text (along with other formatting topics).

All of the information about linking below is also in a stand-alone article for easy reference here.

Image for the Internal Linking section showing a circle linked by four chains.

Internal Linking

Highlight your own site content by linking to articles you have already written!

This not only helps reduce your bounce rate (the users who come to your site but leave after viewing that one page) but also shows search engines your content is more trustworthy.

As you read in the Category vs Tags section, make sure to only link to other content within the same Category (if possible).

By linking to similar or related content on your own site, you are showing Google that you have a clear structure for your content and additional resources for your readers.

If you use the paid version of Yoast, it will automatically suggest other articles that you may want to link to within your article from other content on your site.

This doesn’t mean you add a bullet point list at the end of your article with other posts your reader may enjoy (though you can do this as well). Find a word or phrase in your article you can link to other posts.

External linking section header image with a red circle with four black chains connected.

External Linking

It’s great to link to other sites, especially if you are highlighting research or sources.

But, if you are linking to another site with affiliate links, make sure to place a “no follow” on the link! What does that mean? When Google (and other search engines) crawls your site (meaning they basically scan every page on your blog), any links without a “no follow” will lead the scan off of your site. This is especially important for affiliate links! Always always always put a “no follow” on affiliate links!

When you are linking to a reputable site, it’s ok (and encouraged) to leave it as a follow link. Google loves links.

Follow links tell Google that the site is worth referencing – the more follow links a site (or page) receives, the higher it will rank through SEO. This is why YOU want as many follow links as possible to YOUR blog (Backlinks).

To add “no follow” to a link, just add this code after the “a href” in the html (on WordPress, you switch from Visual Editor to Code Editor at the top right of your screen:

You will add the following code to your link (within the same brakets as the URL):

rel=”no follow”

So your updated link will look something like this:

<a href=”http://www.url.com” rel=”nofollow”>LINKED TEXT</a>T

In addition to “no follow” code, if you want the links to open in a new browser tab so that even if the user is taken away from your site, they still have a tab open with your blog open.

To do this, just add:

target=”_blank”

Your code will look like this:

<a href=”http://www.url.com” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>LINKED TEXT</a>

You can also do this without code by flipping the toggle when editing a link!

Tip: If you use the Pretty Links plugin (free), you can create links that not only look nice (can appear like “https://yourblog.com/affiliatename/”), but you can simply check a box for “no follow” so you can use and reuse a single link without having to add any code! However, ALWAYS make sure “masking” affiliate links aren’t against the program’s affiliate agreement.

Backlinks in SEO section header image showing a blue puzzle piece connecting other white puzzle pieces.

So you are up to speed on linking internally and externally, but what about links back to YOUR site?

Backlinks are links on other sites to your blog and are one of the highest factors for ranking on Google!

But how do you get backlinks?

The more backlinks you receive the better, but what you really want are links from ranking sites (see the section on Domain Authority).

There are a number of ways to receive backlinks:

  • Guest Blogging
  • Organic linking, meaning a reader or blogger finds your content and decides to link to you without any encouragement.
  • Cold emailing other bloggers to see if they want to use your site or a specific article as a reference. If you do this, make sure to do due diligence and research the blog/blogger, note what you love about their site and how your content will benefit their readers.
  • Join networks like HARO to become a source for content. Most “reporters” will link back to their source. Try to make sure you will receive a “do follow” link.

That being said, be careful. “Link swapping” (where you make a deal with a blogger to share their link if they share yours) with other bloggers can be detected by Google. The Google algorithm is complex and they somehow just KNOW things.

But, you want “do follow” links to your blog or they won’t count as backlinks by Google. So if you choose to guest post, make sure you get the main benefit of a “do follow” link before writing a single word!

Guest blogging section header image showing an empty stage with lots of lights and a crowd.

Guest Blogging

With all of the content you need (or want) to create for your own blog, why in the world would you want to take the time to guest blog?

Guest blogging is creating content to be published on another blog with the goal of receiving a backlink to your blog.

While it is possible to gain traffic from guest blogging, this is (for the most part) a potential side benefit.

Domain authority section header image showing a bunch of graphs.

Domain Authority (DA)

The biggest indicator on how you are doing with SEO is your Domain Authority score (shortened to DA in a lot of places).

“Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.” (Source: Moz)

See the free SEO resources section for browser extensions you can use to check the DA of your site (or other sites). There are also paid services for more in-depth research.

Accepting guest posts on your mom blog section header with empty seats in a stadium.

Accepting Guest Bloggers

While accepting guest bloggers on your site isn’t technically an SEO trick, it’s a great potential way to grow your content AND likely receive backlinks to your blog (even if the blogger doesn’t have a high ranking site).

See this page.for how you can set up your blog to accept guest bloggers.

SEO Free Resources

If you are looking for a free resource to understand SEO:

SEO Paid Resources

The below resources are great, in-depth tools for researching, understanding and testing your implementation of SEO (all offer trials):

You may also be able to find Virtual Assistants (VAs) that specialize in SEO and can help you implement SEO practices or audits of your existing site.

Backlinko also has a post on other free and paid tools here.

This was a LOT of information – pin it to reference later!

SEO Pinterest pin image.

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