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The Ultimate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Guide

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Are you still suffering from being ignored by Google and other search engines?

Do you want to get higher rankings in Google in order to get a lot of traffic?

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You have applied every piece of advice shared on all of the big blogs…

…but you still don’t get traffic.

You still read all the SEO blogs and apply their tips…

…and nothing changes.

There is a lot of advice, but you don’t know which to apply.

If you said yes to any of those statements, this post was created for you. When you finish reading this post, you will know just what you need to make your blog rank at the top of Google.

You’ll learn the top mistakes that most bloggers commit, plus you’ll get a step-by-step guide to optimize your blog from the beginning. So, read on!

What is SEO?

SEO is a short abbreviation of Search Engine Optimization.

According to Moz:

SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.

There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand.

By optimizing your blog for SEO, this helps you get higher rankings in Google and of course more traffic.

(If you are on the fence about optimizing your posts for search engines, listen to our interview with Andy Crestodina to learn why you absolutely NEED to focus on it.)

How does Google work?

Google is a search engine. It’s paid just to display pages from all over the Internet on its search, at the proper time.

This is how Google gets money.

That’s why they want to provide a better experience for its searchers: because that’s the backbone of Google’s business, and naturally, they want to make more money.

Google created a lot of updates like Penguin, Panda and the exact match domain update. All these updates made higher-quality content appear at the top.

At the end of the day, Google and other search engines only care about website authority and user experience.

So, how DO you rank higher on search engines?

Now we come to the REALLY important question: how do you rank higher on search engines?

The simple answer is: create high-quality content, increase the authority of your blog and provide better user experience.

It’s simple, but it isn’t easy.

People commit a lot of mistakes (or sins, as Jon Morrow calls them), that prevent them from getting the top rankings on Google.

So let’s review the top mistakes that can prevent your blog from ranking higher on search engines.

1) Not Doing Proper Keyword Research

You’ve probably already heard that you must start doing keyword research.

But, most of the bloggers do it wrong. Here’s an examples:

You log into Google AdWords and check the keywords with a high number of searches.  You find several keywords with high search volumes, and you decide to use them as your main keyword strategy.

But before choosing your keywords, you didn’t check your competition.  You need to look at both the number of competitors and how big a player each competitor is. Even if the competition momentum is low, if a website like Wikipedia ranks on the first page, you can’t beat it.

Solution: Think about the keyword, then analyze the blog that is at the top of the search page. Check the page rank, and whether the authority of the root main domain (also called the root domain is low.) THEN you can go with that keyword.

You can start using tools like Moz or Long Tail Pro to help you.

Recommended Reading:

2) Ignoring Your Old Posts

Let’s say that your blog is full of high information posts. Are you sure that Google knows about them?

Even if Google DOES know, it may only appear on the 53rd page of the search results. Needless to say, these posts bring absolutely no traffic to your site.

Even so, don’t ignore your old posts. They are a great opportunity to help you make more money. They’ll also increase your authority in the eyes of Google, since you’re proving that you have a lot of high-quality content.

Solution: There are great ways to revive your old posts, but the most important thing you need to do is to start linking to them in your new posts. This will get Google’s robots to re-index your previous post and may make it rank higher.

Recommended Reading:

3) Your Core Design Isn’t Optimized for Search Engines

Say you have an awesome design that everyone likes. But, what if Google can’t understand anything on your blog because of your cool design? Wouldn’t it make sense to have an optimized design from the beginning?

A highly designed blog that is optimized for search engines can help you rank higher on search engines. Your main aim is to make Google crawl your blog easily and reward you for this.  Having a well-designed blog that makes Google’s job easy is a must.

Solution: Have a highly optimized framework like Thesis and Genesis. StudioPress offers a lot of great designs that are optimized for search engines. You can choose a design, edit the logo and other stuff, and boom! You’re done.

You can also hire someone to customize your design, but make sure that he or she is a great designer and developer. Rafal Tomal and James Chartrand fit the bill, for starters!

4) Write for Search Engines, Not for Readers

This is another huge mistake that many new bloggers make. They write just for search engines, and not for their readers. They try to includes their keywords  in an annoying way just to rank higher.

These bloggers forget that they have to care about their readers the most! On a practical level, their readers are what drive the whole business!

However: if your readers don’t like your content, neither will Google.

How does Google know if no one likes you content?

If your bounce rate is high, or you have no likes, tweets, or comments, then no one likes your content.

Solution: Write your blog as if you are speaking to your reader. Then, try to optimize the post for search engines. Use Scribe to optimize your content after writing the post to make it highly optimized for search engines.

Recommended Reading:

5) You Are Still Using Blackhat Methods

Blackhat methods refer to a set of tactics that try to “game the system” instead of relying on high quality content and authorship.

I’ve said before that Google cares a lot about their searchers. They release updates to make their robots smarter and to provide their searchers with the best results. So why, in a system that increasingly cares about its searchers, are you still using these blackhat methods?

Solution: Don’t do keyword stuffing, spinning articles, or any other beat the system stuff. Focus on caring about your readers and getting high quality links instead.

6) Ignoring the Title Tag

The title tag is the title of your post that appears on the search engines results page.

Ignoring it can really change your ranking on searching engines, knocking you from number 1 down to number 20.

Yes, it really matters.

The title tag can be the headline of your post. But remember: Google (along with most other search engines) doesn’t display more than 70 characters on its search results page.

Solution: Create a small but attractive title that can capture searchers to click on your page. Remember to include your keyword in the title!

7) Lack of Consistency and Maintenance

Yes, Google cares about the blog that posts consistently.

But I don’t mean that you should post daily. I don’t suggest this, unless you have a big, engaged audience like Copyblogger’s, or Mirasee’s. The important thing is to decide how often you’re going to post, and adhere to it until you’re ready to increase – posting haphazardly, whenever you happen to feel like it doesn;t look good to your audience, or to search engines. 

Solution: Try to post weekly, and then promote your post for the whole week. Try to keep this schedule. Publish at least two posts per month if you can’t write four.

8) Creating URLs That Don’t Contain Your Keywords

By URLs, I mean permalinks. A permalink is the part of your blog post link  that appears just after your actual blog URL.

For example: the permalink for this post about how to make money from a small list, the URL is: https://mirasee.com/blog/how-to-make-money-from-a-small-list/

Having a non-optimized permalink can really negatively affect your search ranking.

Solution: Choose no more than 4 words for your permalink, and make them less than 30 characters. Use your keywords as your permalinks.

Recommended Reading:

9) Buying Links

I mentioned earlier in this post that Google is always trying to make their searchers feel happier. So if you buy links instead of focusing on what your potential readers want, then you are trying to get Google to rank you higher regardless of the quality of your content.

PLEASE don’t do this.

You can learn more about why buying links is bad for SEO on Entrepreneur.com.

10) Focusing on Page Rank and Ignoring Author Rank

In the old days, those who had higher page ranks always got higher search rankings. Now, authority matters more than page rank (or any other single factor).

I think it’s clear from Copyblogger’s case study: Authority always wins the race.

If Brian Clark writes a piece of content about content marketing, is it the same when an anonymous blogger writes about content marketing?

Of course not, even if the second piece is better. Brian Clark is a great author that everyone loves to hear from.

Solution: Start to write epic content as guest posts for popular blogs to make your author rank higher.

Recommended Reading:

11) Concentrating on Quantity of Links instead of Quality

Getting links is easy. But getting quality links can be very hard.

Do you know that a link from Copyblogger is worth 100,000 links from other new blogs?

Amazing, right?

On the flip side, if you get low-quality link, it won’t do you any good. In fact, it will harm you.

Solution: Start guest posting on big blogs. Create high-quality content and then ask for links from big bloggers. Who knows – you may get some!

Recommended Reading:

  • 7 Ways to Attract Lots of High Quality Links in the Age of Authority by John Jantsch

12) Your Site Speed is Slow

It really bears repeating: Google really cares about their users. Having a very low speed will really cost you a lot, since most visitors won’t wait around for your blog to load.

Do you know that Neil Patel got 244,923 visitors instead of 121,311 in just 30 days? Most of that was because he decreased the time it took his site to load by .5s. That’s really awesome.

Solution: Choose a good fast design. Have great hosting. And definitely  check out how Neil Patel did it! Or, read this great article by Glen Allsopp on how to increase your pageviews when you increase your blog speed.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Optimize Your Blog for SEO (i.e. the Real Work):

Are you overwhelmed with all of the information you just read? Don’t worry! I’ve got you covered.

Here is a step-by-step guide to have a highly optimized blog for search engines.

1. Choose a Great Web Host & a Highly Optimized WordPress Design

Having a great host is really important if you want to rank higher on search engines. If your blog experiences a lot of downtime, Google won’t even pay attention to it.

After you have a great host, choose WordPress as your platform.

As you can see, all of the top bloggers use WordPress as their blogging platform. That goes for Pro BloggerBlog TyrantSocial Triggers, and Mirasee.

After you have WordPress, choose a good design like I’ve described above.

2. Optimize Your WordPress Blog for SEO

Next, you want to make your blog more optimized for search engines. If you have Genesis Framework or Thesis, then you won’t need to do all this stuff. But you may also want to check out these posts to learn more – maybe there’s a step that StudioPress overlooked!

  • WordPress SEO by Gregory Ciotti. (Great for new to WordPress folks!)

3. Do Keyword Research the Right Way

Keyword research is a fundamental process in order to find the keywords that you should target to get higher rankings.  First, choose the right keywords for your blog. Then, find the keywords you’d like to target in a specific post.

It isn’t an easy step, but it’s not hard either. You can check CopyBlogger’s Keyword Research series for information on how to get started.

4. Create High Quality Content that Google & Your Readers Need

Now, we come to the most important step. You need to have content that Google will need (not just want, but need) to index.

This content must be high quality. Let’s all say it together: Google really cares about their searchers.

Creating compelling content that your readers and Google need is really hard, but you can certainly do it.

Think about a great idea, desire, or need. Then, try to create a post that covers your idea in the best way ever. Make it as helpful as you can.

You could also check out how Tom Ewer creates SEO optimized content for his authority site for inspiration.

5. Optimize Your Post for Search Engines

As I said earlier in this post, you need to write your content firstly for your readers, and then try to optimize it for search engines.

For this, you may need to learn some SEO copywriting.

If you really want to learn SEO copywriting, then check out Brian Clark’s guide  to SEO Copywriting.

Also, you can get help from Scribe. It can help you to optimize your blog and do your keyword research. It will even tell you where to get links!

If you don’t know anything about this plugin, check out this Scribe review.

6. Borrow Some Authority

Google cares a lot about authority these days. And they will care more about it in the future.

So it makes sense to borrow some of the authority from popular blogs.

Start writing high quality posts and submit them to top blogs in your niche. Guest post more than you create content on your blog.

When you have a popular blog like Copyblogger, that’s the time when you start creating content only for your blog.

Until then, it’s all about guest posting.

7. Prove to Google That Readers Care About Your Post

Get more comments and shares to prove to Google that people really care about your post

You can create a Click To Tweet button in the top half of your post. Then, ask a question to get more comments at the end of your blog.

You can also ask top bloggers to tweet your posts or decrease your bounce rate. When a lot of people leave your blog, this means that a lot of people hate it and so will Google.

You can check this post on Mashable on how to decrease your bounce rate or this post by Ana Hoffman: Bounce Rate: 16 Ways to Make Your Blog Sticky.

8. Measure Your SEO Efforts

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

SEO can lead you to a big increase in traffic and hence sales and subscribers. You need to measure all the efforts you spend optimizing your blog for search engines.

Check what really works, and start doing it more. Eliminate what doesn’t work, and focus on what does.

There are a lot of great tools to help you with this. Check out Kristi Hines’ great article 10 Premium SEO Tools That You Can Try for Free (or Cheap) to find some of these great tools for free or for small price.

9. Check Neil Patel’s Guide

Make sure that you take a look at Neil Patel’s advanced SEO guide. It contains a lot of amazing tips that are very advanced.

You deserve Higher Rankings!

Yes, you totally deserve to be on the first page of Google. You also deserve to be the first result.

There is a lot of low-quality content that is ranked number 1 on Google.

But now you have everything you need to make your best content rank better on search engines and get the leads you want.

There’s no magic – just the decision and commitment to give this a go.

Start Now.

Take Action. You have what you need so don’t let anything stop you.

And then, wait for your rankings because they will be increasing quickly. Very quickly.

About Ahmed Safwan

Ahmed Safwan is a useless person 99% of the time. He found out that most of the bloggers fail because they can't setup rock solid foundation and stand out from the crowd. That's why he created To Start Blogging. He is a marketer that teaches how you can get your posts shared, tweeted, and talked about and how to stand out from the crowd. If you want more people to read and interact with your content, check out his free Blogger's Handbook for Writing Viral Posts!

76 thoughts on “The Ultimate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Guide

  1. Good best practice post. We all know there’s a ton of information marketers need to stay on top of, this helps ease the burden of the overload and is definately a handy reference for those who don’t have budget to outsource their SEO.

  2. Great post — thank you. It’s always worth it to come across a post that has reason to violate the new 250 character rule we hear so much about these days.

    Ahmed self-described as “pretty much useless 99% of the time” has clearly spoken here for some of my own pretty much useless time.

    Again — thank you — really good info and PACKED. 😉

  3. This is a great post, but I take issue with one point: Google does not get paid to display great search results. Google gets paid when people click on the ads, not the search results. This is an important distinction because it stands to reason that this might give Google a financial incentive to provide less-than-stellar search results so that more people click on the ads. Sure, if the search results get too bad, people will switch to another search engine. But where is that line? Is Google truly motivated to serve up the best possible results? Or just good enough to keep you coming back?

    • If they didn’t display great results, people wouldn’t have used it.

      When they displayed great results for a lot of time, people are using them and they click on the ads, which means money for Google.

      Did you get the point Bethanny?

  4. Really good post to get basic knowledge about SEO. SEO is one of the important factor for a blogger to get success in internet, this post contains all the required basic SEO details

  5. Hi Ahmed,

    Wow, this is an awesome guide to SEO and one I’m going to have to refer back to often. I especially thank you for the information and links on speed as that is what I am struggling with at the moment.

    Many times ‘SEO language’ is confusing. Your guide is clear, concise, and actionable. Thanks so much.

  6. This is pretty different from the typical stuff I read about SEO and I was very impressed by the content. The guy obviously knows his stuff. But like all things in marketing, the only way to know for sure is to test everything he says.

  7. Very nice post, Ahmed, SEO is something I still can’t understand, I loose it as sand in my hand. I think I’ve got everything clearer after reading your post. It has a lot of information, so I need to study it patiently. Thanks a lot for your post about SEO!

  8. Excellent post Ahmed! I think you officially demystified SEO. It definitely came at the right time and gave me plenty of things to think about in 2014 and on.

    We (and by we, I basically mean me) all too often forget that the quality of a link is far more important that the quantity. Say it were to take me 2 hours to spin and spam 5 article directories, why not spend those two hours interacting on twitter and making new connections?

    • or why don’t you spend it writing a great guest post for a big blog and attract a lot of traffic and make google love you.

      It’s all about knowing what to do and keep doing it.

  9. You explained everything very clearly, Ahmed.

    All the points which you mentioned here are very genuine and most of the times newbies get caught in such traps very easily.

    With my experience I have seen that keyword research plays damn important role to get high potential easy to rank keywords, so happy to see that you explained this as your first point.

    I agree with the part that theme plays an important role your blog’s SEO because this is the backbone of your blog. This importance forced me to use Genesis framework on all my blog and I am very happy that all my blogs are powered with one the best SEO friendly themes.

    Buying wrong and low quality backlinks might be the other reason that you are lacking in SEO. So we should always try to use ethical ways to build backlinks for our money site.

    I enjoyed this article completely and learnt many new things.

    Best wishes for the contest. 🙂

    • Brian Clark is an amazing person. He knows exactly what we needs and he just over deliver. Not only the themes are looking great, they’re optimized well for search engines.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this post Kulwant. Really appreciate it.

  10. I’ve always been intimated by SEO but somehow you showed in this post that it is actually doable. One question I have is, all things being held equal, do you think that if I totally ignore researching keywords instead focus on guest posting, I can still get higher rankings on Google search?

    • keyword research isn’t only done for google. It helps you understand your audience.

      Knowing the right keywords and going after it is better than just going and don’t know where are you going to rank.

      Hope you get the idea.

  11. I quickly skimmed this post and thought it was useful but slightly lightweight.

    Then I started clicking through the links!

    EXCELLENT STUFF.

    Thank you.

    • I wanted it to look light for everyone, so you can digest it easily and then added the links to help you more and benefit the most 😉

      I’m glad that you liked it.

  12. Great tips, Ahmed! Nice round-up of supporting links, too – which demonstrates the number one principle behind effective SEO, in my humble opinion: If you want better SEO/SERPS, you have to think like the search engines do — i.e., care about the READER, not you-the-site-owner. Give the readers what they want (or what they *believe* they want – which is not always the same thing), and give it to them in as high-quality a format as you can possibly manage.

  13. Hi Ahmed,

    Sensational! Quality, personable, consistent posting boosts your SEO….big time.

    Patiently sow good seeds to see the greatest return in the long run.

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. Definitely mammoth of a post, Ahmed, including all the additional resources anyone would ever want to learn everything they need to about SEO!

    Thanks for mentioning Traffic Generation Café by the way.

  15. Thank you a lot Ahmed for that in-depth and most comprehensive simple guide to SEO. I really liked how you explained every bit of basic SEO in plain english.

    I agree to what Annie Sisk said. SEO can surely be implemented only when you adopt search robot’s crawling habits and its sharp eyes. After the famous Penguin, Panda and Humming bird penalty, SEO has become the biggest talk on the table like always.

    I would love to read further from you and learn more.Thank you again.

    • Hi Mohammad,
      A lot of what I learned from SEO was because of you, thanks a lot man.

      I’m really glad you found this a comprehensive guide. I really appreciate your kind words.

      Thanks Mohammad.

  16. Great tips Ahmed!

    I’ve found comments to be an exceptionally underrated method for ranking well.

    For example my blog posts with no comments often don’t even rank on the first five pages of searches, no matter how well I SEO things.

    Having 2-3 genuine comments gets my posts up to the first page, although in the bottom half.

    5 or more comments seem to guarantee that I get ranked at the top half, with several hitting number one.

    The importance of genuine comments is definitely highly underrated!

  17. Wow! An inconsumable ton of information. I think I have to start a separate project on learning SEO just to went through this post and all the links…

  18. Thanx for this! After reading it I did a couple searches for some of my stuff. I copy/pasted the title of the post into the search window. I went thru every page on the searches. Nothing. I’ll be spending much of this weekend wading thru your links and working on new material to post.

  19. I notices some people who just develop website and start building lot of backlinks thorough automatic tools and after couple of months doing so they get penalized and then look for panda or penguin recovery services. Those people who are new to blogging and want to attain number 1 position in search engines should follow search engines policies and always built quality and search engines’ friendly backlinks. Your guide is providing important information to the bloggers. I recommend them to be patience and focus upon the quality of contents. With consistent hard work one day you’ll be on top 🙂

    • It’s really sad. People do a lot of work but in the wrong direction.

      That’s why you need a blueprint to follow. I’m glad that you found my post to be useful.

      Thanks for your comment.

  20. Hi Ahmed,

    Informative post indeed 🙂

    I think you’ve added all that one needs to know about SEO – a real guide that we can all use.

    Thanks for sharing. Happy weekend 🙂

  21. Hi Ahmed,

    Fantastic stuff as usual.

    I don’t do much SEO related stuff except few (on-page optimization, and I make sure my overall blog theme is stuffed with the right keywords), still I get 80% traffic from the search engines.

    In order to rank well in the search engines, you have to create problem solving content (in-depth articles help you for sure!), Google will reward you sooner or later.

    Finding your own keywords (that people *might* type) and using them throughout your articles can help you long lasting traffic.

    You’re so right on increasing SEO traffic through building quality backlinks. A quality link from an authority weighs more.

    The post is worth tweeting 🙂

    Keep rocking Ahmed!

    • When you do the basics right, it’d be easy to get traffic from Google overtime.

      That’s the best part about SEO. Optimize right and then you’ll get traffic for long time.

      Thanks for your precious words Rahul. Appreciate it.

  22. Hey Ahmed / Danny
    Just adding my voice of thanks to the long list. Recommend this for anyone new to SEO that wants a quick SEO 101 guide.

  23. Ahmed … This is an excellent post! I always enjoy the work of writers who manage to educate, enlighten and amuse their readers. This post accomplished all this in my reading. SEO used to give me the heebie jeebies! Your post makes this less true now … and all from just “reading” it. Imagine how I might benefit from “studying” this post and taking action? I appreciate your content and wit. My funny bone got a good workout today. Many thanks! Shalom!

    • The most important thing as you said is to take action. Start studying the post and implement all the stuff shared here. After that, come back and tell me the results 😉

      Hope you all the best Sheila.

  24. Thanks for putting all this together.
    Regarding to wordpress SEO, I have just published a more thorough guide on this topic. I think this will be a good supplementary.

    Thanks again for this great guide.

    Leo

  25. Absolutely fab post. Post little bit lengthy but all points are really good and important. Specially black hat point because many people doesn’t know hoe much harmful black hat Seo in 2014.

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