Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your website to improve visibility and rankings on SERP (Search Engine Results Page). If you’ve hosted a WordPress website then you’re in luck! By the time you’re done reading this article you’ll be somewhat of an expert in optimizing your own website ABSOLUTELY FREE of charge!
Before we begin, let me define small websites to ensure you don’t end up wasting your time. The website has less than 500 pages and less than 5,000 monthly pageviews.
Website Speed Optimization
Website speed (load time) is an important ranking factor while considering rankings on SERP. Google wants your website to load almost as quickly as it loads results when a search query is entered. According to Google, a good (fast) website is one which fully loads within 5 seconds.
Page Speed Insights is a tool developed by Google which let’s you identify issues causing the slow load speeds and gives tips on how to optimize them. Since many of you are like me, who aren’t developers, will get stuck right here. So, how do you make all those technical and complex changes without knowing how to code?
Well, before I can share an easy fix with you, which will take no more than 2 minutes to solve all those issues and get you in green. I would like you to open Google’s Page Speed Insights and enter your website URL then click analyze.
Write down the scores you receive for mobile and desktop on a notepad before you install the plugin and then after who’ve installed the plugin. Do leave a comment below for others to see the before and after change.
If you’ve received a score which is between 0 – 49 then these must be the top issues which are slowing down your website on mobile as well as desktop.
- Serve images in next-gen formats
- Efficiently encode images
- Eliminate render-blocking resources
- Reduce unused CSS and
- Reduce initial server response time
If you expand each section then the tool itself will recommend various plugins to improve upon the issues. However, that’s too time consuming and the more plugins you keep adding, the slower your website will get eventually.
Here comes the All-In-One Tool that will make your website FLY!
To download NitroPack you need to go to Plugins > Add New > in search enter NitroPack.
PS – Please read till the end before you make any changes as there are limitations on the FREE version.
The beauty of this plugin is that it will resolve all page speed issues in one click and ensure you have a ridiculously fast website in under 2 minutes! This plugin has a paid version as well however, the free one is just so powerful that you wouldn’t want to even look into the paid version if your website has less than 5,000 monthly pageviews.
The FREE version offers –
- Image Lazy Loading
- Combine CSS
- Lazy Load Hidden Images
- CSS and JS Compression
- Critical CSS
- iframe Lazy Loading
- Image Optimization
- Global CDN (Images, Fonts, CSS, JS)
- HTML, CSS, and JS Minification
- Delay Resource Loading
- Cache Warmup
It’s okay to not understand half of the points listed above, I don’t get it as well! But I do get a super fast website with this FREE plugin at the end. That’s quite literally all I care about at this point and I’m sure you do to.
To get started, after you have installed the plugin you need to open an account on NitroPack.io and connect your website. Here are all the steps required to connect to your website – Connecting Your Website on NitroPack
If you have more than 5K page views per month then you need to subscribe to one of their packages which start from approximately $20 per month for up to 50K monthly pageviews and so on.
Please go ahead and set up the plugin before you read any further. (Run the cache warmup)
Good Job! If you have successfully installed, activated, connected and ran the plugin (cache warmup) then I urge you to get back to Page Speed Insights in 2 minutes to see the magic yourself.
Regardless of what your score is for mobile, I am 100% certain it is much better than before and the desktop is certainly green and mostly 100, right?
Congratulations you’ve completed 50% of SEO and all that remains now is On-Page and Off-Page SEO.
On Page SEO is lengthy but really simple!
It really is! All you need to do is follow a few guidelines to ensure the crawler is able to understand your content as well as present it to the end user. If we didn’t have plugins such as NitroPack then on page SEO would have been the most easiest on the list.
Since you may still have the plugin page open, let’s start with another plugin to aid in optimizing your website on search engines.
Yoast SEO is a simple and yet FREE to use plugin (has a paid version as well). This plugin will guide you throughout your content writing journey to ensure your content is optimized for search engines. This free tool will also help you set up your sitemap.xml, robots.txt as well as guide you on how to integrate your website with Google Search Console.
The entire process in creating a sitemap.xml, robots.txt and Google integration will take less than 3 minutes and this tool will also automatically generate basic schema which helps search engines understand your content better.
Let’s get started, Go to Plugins > Add New > search for Yoast SEO
Once you have installed and activated the plugin, please follow the onboarding guide to finish setting up the plugin. What you will mostly do is keep clicking “Next” to complete the set up. No changes are required.
So Yoast SEO has been set up, good job!
You can open the “Posts” tab and scroll down to after your post has ended. You’ll see the Yoast SEO plugin. Disregard the Schema and Social Tabs for now and only focus on SEO and Readability. That’s all you will require from this plugin while writing a post.
I won’t get into details on how to effectively use Yoast SEO in this post at this time. It’s a pretty famous tool and there are tons of resources available to learn how to use this tool. Either Google it or YouTube it.
Keyword Research takes time
All right! So we have resolved the speed issues and installed Yoast SEO to aid us in writing SEO optimized content. What we need now is the keywords and the best place to look for them is on Google Keyword Planner.
To set up keywords planner you need to register your account and follow the steps as put forward when you sign up. Once you’re logged in you need to go to TOOLS AND SETTINGS on the top bar and then click on Keyword Planner under Planning.
The option on the left (Discover new keywords) let’s you put in a maximum of 10 keywords for which you’d like to know the monthly search volumes. Google will share the search volumes with you after you have entered the keywords and present a list of related keywords and their respective monthly search volumes as well.
Please Note – These search volumes will vary depending upon the country and is an average of 12 months. If a keyword gets searched 5K times per month for 6 months and then 3K times for the remaining 6 months, then technically the average is 4K monthly clicks, however, Google will present the average monthly volume as a range which in this case would be 1K – 10K.
Please use the tool carefully and ensure you’re checking the data for the relevant region you’re trying to optimize and rank for. If you mess up the region then you’re left with inaccurate data which will lead to slow ranking movement in SERP
You can simply search for the keywords that you would like volumes for and it’s not necessary to enter your website. Let me show you an example of how the results would get filtered. I’ll search for the keyword SEO.
Take your time and study the image above before you read any further.
As you can see, I searched for SEO with the location set as India and language as English. The tool understands SEO is related to digital marketing and has provided a range of related search terms next to “Broaden your search”
You can either choose to take up the recommendation or just scroll down to see the volumes. As you can see SEO has a monthly volume of 100K – 1M. This is expected as short tail keywords will generally have massive search volumes as compared to long tail keywords.
Short tail keywords are 3 words or less and long tail keywords are 3 words or more.
Google has also provided me with a range of keywords that fall under SEO as you can see in the image above. The search volumes will vary based on the keywords and as a thumb rule you should shortlist long tail keywords which has a decent search volume.
You can ignore the “Competition” which is mentioned as that’s only applicable to you if you’re doing the keyword research for setting up ads. If it’s for SEO purpose then just focus on the volume.
Now there are many tools that show keyword difficulty which is a score or a measure of how difficult is it to get ranked at number 1 for that keyword. Zero being the easiest and 100 being the most difficult. Don’t bother with them at this point in your journey.
Remember this golden rule, the lesser the monthly search volume the easier it is to rank and the higher the monthly search volume, the more difficult it is to rank. Google officially DOES NOT have a keyword difficulty metric in place. Majority 3rd party SEO tools have a keyword difficulty metric in place however it is not guaranteed that you will end up ranking for a low difficulty keyword based on their data.
Although, I have to agree that some of these tools are freakishly accurate and you do end up at rank 1 a lot quicker, however, these are paid tools and this post is about getting started with SEO for free so let’s continue with the FREE stuff.
PS – You should also read up on 8 Different Types of Keywords and How To Avoid Keyword Stuffing later on.
Content Writing is an art
Think about it! When was the last time you discovered content which is completely new and unique? It’s quite literally the same everywhere. I’m 100% sure I’m not the first individual writing an article on DIY SEO or SEO for WordPress.
I strongly believe that in order to get traffic or attention you need not worry about what you’re saying but how are you saying it. It’s all about communication! There are tons of SEO articles out there and several written by well known individuals in the SEO community.
You’ll observe that all these articles are similar in context but what sets them apart is the tone. Just optimizing with keywords isn’t all there is to rank on Google. Your content needs to be unique (non-plagiarized) which simply means that you can cover any topic that you want to but present it in your own unique way and not just copy paste the information in a blog.
Google is smart enough to understand that you’ve stitched parts of an existing articles together to create a “unique” content but it’s not really “unique” now, is it? Take your time, do the research and write it your way. That is what Google appreciates.
Well, you have the keywords, Yoast SEO and you now know how you need to write your blogs. Just go ahead and start writing, Yoast will keep guiding you on the improvements required from Titles & Descriptions to all the way to readability. All the best!
Sorry if you’re not into content writing! I deviated a bit there. Let’s get onto another FREE tool that we can use to optimizing existing pages.
Screaming Frog – Website Audit Tool which is FREE
Screaming Frog is a freemium website audit tool which you can download. It has a limit of crawling only 500 URLs in the FREE version which is hopefully all we need at this point. You can download the software using the link above.
Please NOTE – Screaming Frog uses a ton of resources while running an audit. You may be unable to do anything on your laptop or PC as it will most certainly slow it down. Don’t worry, it only slows down when you’re using the tool. When it’s inactive your laptop or PC will become as smooth as it used to be.
At this point you can either just watch their videos and learn how to use the tool or keep reading.
Step 1 – Enter your website URL in the search field and click “Start”
Step 2 – Patiently wait for the crawl to end, you can check the status on the bottom right.
Step 3 – Click on the Page Titles Tab to get a list of Page Titles on your website
On this screen you will find all the Page Titles and Meta Descriptions that need correction. Simply click the tab on the right and start optimizing. The beauty of Screaming Frog is that everything is available in 1 click after the audit.
Under Page Titles or Meta Descriptions, click on any section and it will filter the affected URLs which makes it super easy to identify and optimize in bulk. It’s a real time saver!
Another great feature is the Featured Snippets that you can see below after selecting a URL from the left.
It shows you how the Title and Description appear on search and gives you the ability to make changes and guides you with the character limit for both titles and descriptions.
NOTE – These changes only reflect on the tool. To make the changes appear directly on your website you need to update the title and description on your posts page. If you’ve downloaded Yoast SEO then scroll on the bottom and you’ll see where to update it.
Screaming Frog is a multipurpose tool with limitless possibilities. I recommend you look up their user guide to learn all that is possible with this miraculous tool. If you like to learn by watching videos then YouTube it! It’s a very popular tool and tons of videos are available online to educate yourself.
You can use the tool to find missed internal linking opportunities, fix URL re-directs, generate a sitemap.xml and more!
Titles, Descriptions and Hierarchy
So now you have Screaming Frog as well as Yoast SEO to help with optimizing titles and meta descriptions. Although, both the tools help, I recommend you pay more attention to the title and description length using Screaming Frog.
After we have optimized the length of titles and descriptions and ensured they consist the keyword we want to rank for, now we look at the hierarchy tags or heading tags (H1 – H6)
Okay, thumb rule, H1 will always be the main topic of the page or post! H1 is basically what get’s picked up by search engines as your title as well as signals search engines what the page or post is about. Always have just ONE H1 TAG in a post.
The reason is simple, if you use multiple H1 tags then you’re confusing the search engine (Google), if Google gets confused you can say goodbye to your ranking goals. Search engine crawlers follow a hierarchy to understand your content.
H1 is the primary topic followed by H2 (heading 2) which is your secondary topic again followed by H3 which is a sub topic for the secondary topic. Confused? Take a look below
This is the table of content from the same post that you’re currently reading. The H1 is the title which doesn’t reflect in the TOC. Point 1 (Website Speed Optimization) is H2 and NitroPack appears as 1.1 because I have tagged it as H3 since it’s a sub-topic of the H2.
Similarly, On Page SEO is lengthy but really simple! is H2 and all that we’ve been discussing (2.1 – 2.5) are all tagged as H3.
If I had explored “Content Writing is an art” in detail then, every subheading under it would have been tagged as H4 and would appear as 2.3.1 in the TOC. I think you’ve understood by now how and when to use the H-Tags.
This is important as it signals Google the structure of the content as well as what kind of topics we’ve covered within a post and in what length. You’ll notice that a good chunk of people also ask section on Google will reflect these H2 – H6 Tags as answers.
It’s all about understanding! The better you’re able to explain yourself to Google, the more it’ll showcase you to others on SERP on relevant queries.
So far we’ve improved the website speed, researched keywords, created keyword optimized content and fixed our page titles and meta descriptions for SERP. Also Yoast SEO automatically added schema on your pages since you’ve installed and set it up.
Congratulations! You’re done with 80% of SEO and unfortunately the remaining 20% will never get completed.
Want to know why? Well read my H2 below 🙂
Off Page SEO never ends!
It’s true, off page seo never ends! The primary reason is the never ending online competition. As time passes by new blogs, articles, competitors enter the market with even better content than yours. However, to stay at the top you need a lot of relevant (high authority) websites pointing towards your domain.
Yes, we’re finally talking about the internets much loved topic of discussion! Backlinks!!
Let me cut it short for you, in case you’re a business, hire a SEO because you 100% won’t have enough time to get this done to stay ahead of online competition as well as run your business. It takes too many hours of research, out-reach and rejection. It’s best that you bring in an off page expert to help you generate business (traffic/leads) online.
There is so much in off page SEO that I can literally write another long article which will again be over 3000 words. But, I’ll try to wrap this up as quickly as possible. I suggest you read these 2 articles for a detailed understanding of building high quality backlinks as well as get educated on the concept of Domain Authority.
There are several ways to gain backlinks amongst which, the easiest ones are social media. Simply sharing your content on social media will earn backlinks for your website. This is also referred to as social signals. Since these types of backlinks are super easy to generate, they don’t hold a lot of value for the website.
The only type of backlink that can change the game for you website and boost your overall Domain Authority as well as positively impact your rankings are guests posts. There are several other methods like forum posting, blog commenting, article submission sites etc. But that’s old school and very easy to generate backlinks that they barely hold any value. Google gets smarter every 6 months (core updates).
Guest posting or Guest blogging is simply helping another website with your content for which in exchange you receive a backlink from them. The higher the DA of that website, the more valuable is the link for you.
There are several websites that accept guest blogs and are willing to return the favor with a dofollow backlink to your domain. Remember there are several websites that will also ask you for money in order to guest post and receive a backlink.
Although I’m not a big fan of doing things this way, but sometimes, it’s worth every penny. There are a few gems out there who will let you guest post for a monetary exchange but in return you won’t get just a dofollow backlink but also tons of traffic to your website.
Depending on what your goals are, you take a call! But remember to thoroughly research the website before making a decision. Use FREE online tools like SemRush (again freemium) to determine the real traffic that comes on their website per month.
Every website that you approach will have guest posting/blogging guidelines that you MUST follow in order to gain a backlink. To find such websites you can use this FREE tool called Google
Surprised? Really…? You didn’t know about this?
Well there are several ways to find guest posting opportunities via Google Search. You simply need to type
“write for us” + “keyword”
Copy the line above exactly the way it is and paste it on Google Search. Now, before you hit enter, you need to replace the keyword with the actual keyword you want to write about. For example, if I had to find guest post opportunities for internet marketing, then I would type “write for us” + “internet marketing” and hit enter.
You’ll be presented with tons of websites that are accepting guest posts. It’s that simple!
You might want to get a little creative since not every website will have a “write for us” keyword. Try using
“guest posting” + “keyword”
“submit an article” + “keyword”
“guest blog for us” + “keyword”
There are several but I think you’ve gotten the point by now. You can read this Easy Guide on How to Guest Blog – Tips and Tools to get started right away.
Keep updating content and keep searching for backlink opportunities
Let’s wrap up quickly as this article has already taken a lot of your time today.
The two constants of SEO is content and backlinks. Everything else can be a one time activity but these two never end. Hence you must have heard this a lot – “SEO is always required and is a slow and never ending process.”
I’m sure after reading so much on this blog you’d agree.
Competitors will try to break you with superior content and high number of high quality backlinks. The SEO that you hire is responsible to be at the top of the game and ensure these new commers (competition) DO NOT get ahead.
At the same time you need to constantly keep adding more content to your website to drive even more traffic which may then convert into leads and hopefully into sales. This never ending process is what people call SEO.
Sounds scary? It shouldn’t! It only sounds scary because you’re either new to this field or are a small business who has just started. Everything looks difficult at the start and feels super easy after a while. SEO is just like that. Once you start with it you’ll realize that there is always something new to learn and the moment you think of calling yourself an expert you’ll come across something that’ll stop you from claiming yourself as an expert.
The internet keeps evolving which forces Google to keep evolving and hence SEO keeps evolving.
There is no particular success formula to achieving success in Search Engine Optimization. If you seek clarity you’ll often hear the golden words “it depends” (you’ll know what that means in a few months if you continue this journey towards SEO)
Do It Yourself (DIY) SEO WordPress Key Takeaways
- Choose a SEO-friendly WordPress theme. There are many themes available that are specifically designed with SEO in mind, so be sure to do your research and pick one that will work well for your site.
- Use keyword-rich titles and descriptions. Be sure to include relevant keywords in both the title and description of your posts and pages, as this will help search engines to better understand what your content is about and how it should be ranked.
- Optimize your images. Whenever you upload a new image to your WordPress site, be sure to include relevant keywords in the file name and fill out the alternate text field with a brief description of the image.
- Add fresh content regularly. One of the best ways to improve your SEO is by regularly adding new, high-quality content to your site. Try to aim for at least one new post or page per week if possible.
- Use internal and external links. Linking to relevant pages within your site and other high-quality websites will help search engines to understand the context of your content, as well as drive more traffic to your site.
- Take advantage of plugins. There are many great plugins available that can help you optimize your website for SEO. Some of our favorites include Yoast SEO and NitroPack.
- Promote your content. In addition to creating great content, be sure to promote it through social media and other channels to get more eyes on it. The more people who see your content, the more likely it is that someone will link to it or share it, both of which will help boost your SEO ranking.
Firstly, thank you for reading this lengthy article. I hope you’ve somewhat benefitted from this article and have a faster website along with a decent understanding of SEO and some FREE tools to aid you along this journey. I hope you still have the data from your page speed insights. Please do comment below and let me know if it made a difference for you website. Thank you again 🙂