SEO For Beginners: The Definitive Guide for Bloggers
If you’re a professional blogger, this is the most comprehensive beginner’s guide to SEO you’ll find anywhere.
And let’s be clear about one thing:
This is not some high-level technical mumbo jumbo about robots.tx, canonical URLs, disavow files, and other stuff you don’t care about and won’t help you.
Instead, you’re going to see what SEO is all about on a practical and easy-to-understand level, so you can get your SEO basics down.
Because at the end of the day: SEO isn’t that hard.
So if you’re looking to brush up on your SEO knowledge, you’ll love this SEO for beginner's guide.
Let’s get started.
Chapter 1: Why Even Bother With SEO?
Before we dive into what SEO is and its core concepts, let’s talk about why, as a blogger, SEO is so important for you in the first place.
Now, you understand better than anyone that the lifeblood of having a successful blog is traffic.
Because without traffic, you don’t have an email list, you can’t make any affiliate commissions, and you can’t sell any of your own products, right?
#1. SEO Gets You Traffic
How does SEO help you get traffic?
The simplest explanation I could come up with is this fancy custom graphic I had my designer mock up 🙂
And this is exactly how I drove more than 1 million visitors to my authority site in the outdoors niche site last year, with 88% of my traffic coming from Google:
#2. Traffic Diversification
Ok. Now when most bloggers that I run in circles with think about traffic, they immediately think of Pinterest. And for good reason!
Many bloggers are making a killing with Pinterest right now and so it makes sense to keep doing what’s working.
Pinterest is a great driver of traffic and I’m a big fan of the platform (even if I barely know what I’m doing on there).
But if you’re relying on Pinterest for 90% of your traffic, you may want to think about diversifying a bit.
Well, as Jeff from Breaking The One Percent says, “the days of easy Pinterest traffic are numbered.”
It’s only a matter of time before Pinterest throttles your organic reach, much like Facebook has done over the past couple of years.
I mean, take a minute and just read this article about what happened to the LittleThings website, who lost 75% of their organic traffic and literally went out of business, all because Facebook decided to (again) update their algorithm:
Facebook used to be a goldmine for organic traffic, but then they turned off the firehose and now if you want any meaningful traffic on Facebook, you better be doing ads.
You are at the mercy of their platform.
And sooner or later, the same thing will be be true of Pinterest.
So, yeah: it’s never a good idea to rely so heavily on one source of traffic, because when that source dries up, what are you left with?
And so it’s good to get familiar with SEO and increase your Google traffic if only to diversify a bit away from Pinterest.
#3. Google Traffic Is Extremely Targeted
But there’s an even bigger reason why you should make SEO a part of your marketing strategy: the type of traffic that you attract to your website is extremely targeted.
Think about it:
Let’s say you’re looking to buy a non-stick pan for your kitchen but you aren’t sure which one to get, so you want to check out some reviews first.
So you hop onto Google and type in “best non stick pan” and see these results:
You see The Wirecutter post right at the top of the search results in the Featured Snippets called “The Best Nonstick Pan” so you immediately click on it.
And you see that they recommend the Tramontina as the best non stick pan to buy, so you click their Amazon link, make the purchase on Amazon, and you're on your merry way.
Meanwhile, The Wirecutter has just made a commission on the sale since you purchased via their Amazon link.
All because you were actively looking for something very specific (reviews of the best non-stick pans) …
And The Wirecutter built a page focused exactly around your search keyword …
And since they ranked at the top of Google, you clicked on their site and they made money.
And when you can rank highly in Google for your chosen keywords, you can attract that kind of targeted traffic to your website and make product and affiliate sales.
This is exactly how I was able to earn nearly $100,000 from my affiliate website last year before selling it off.
That’s what targeted traffic is ALL about.
Chapter 2: What Is SEO?
It’s funny, nearly every article you read about SEO is does a horrible job of explaining in plain English what you need to know.
For example, here is a definition from Moz.com—one of the foremost experts on SEO—that I had to re-read three times and I still don’t understand what they’re trying to say:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search results.
I mean, come on …
Not only is it unclear, but what they’re describing—getting more targeted more traffic to your website —is not what SEO is, but what happens as a result of when you do SEO on your site.
So, in plain English, here’s the simplest definition I could come up with:
SEO is building your website so that it ranks higher in Google.
That’s all you need to know about what SEO is.
You are simply optimizing your website so that when someone plugs a keyword into Google.com, your website appears on the first page of Google.
Pretty simple, right?
Now, don’t get me wrong: there is a lot of work that goes into that … and there is probably one word in my definition that’s raising your curiosity a little bit …
Can I guess what it is?
Is it the word building?
Yes, I bet that’s it. But don’t you worry.
We’re going to expand on what I mean by that shortly.
Chapter 3: Knowing How Google Works
But first, before we can effectively optimize our website so that Google ranks it highly, it’s probably worth discussing how Google actually works.
And I don’t mean in a way that you need a computer science degree from Stanford to understand. I mean in plain English!
Here’s what you need to know:
When you type a keyword into that search box on Google.com … Google has ONE and only ONE goal …
To show you the very best content at the top of their search results for every single search query!
But how does Google determine what content is “best”?
I’ll try to break it down as best as I can 🙂
#1. Search Intent
Remember: Google’s ultimate goal is making sure it’s users are happy with the search results.
This means that the search result must ultimately match the user’s intent!
Think about it:
Let’s say someone is searching for the keyword “cold brew coffee”.
Now, without knowing the exact intent behind their search—why are they searching for cold brew coffee?—we could take a couple of guesses:
Let’s see what Google thinks:
As you can see from the first four results … all of them are posts on recipes/how to make cold brew coffee!
So Google has figured out—from all of the search data they have access to—that when someone searches for “cold brew coffee”, they want to know how to make it!
And what the heck does this mean for you?
Well, if you were thinking about trying to rank for the keyword “cold brew coffee” … it would probably be a good idea to make the main focus of your post around how to make cold brew coffee, right?
This may sound obvious, but it’s very important:
At the end of the day, you want your content to match the intent of the user searching in Google.
Now, that’s on a post-by-post basis—each individual post should ultimately match user intent for each main keyword you’re targeting.
But what about on a sitewide level?
That’s where relevancy comes into play.
Have you ever come across one of those lifestyle bloggers?
You know, one day they may be blogging about crock pot recipes, the next about how to save money on your car insurance, the day after that about how to make money from Pinterest, and maybe another day they're doing a travel diary of their trip to Spain.
In other words, their blog is all over the damn place. And when it comes to SEO, this is not a good thing.
Because Google has no idea what their website is about!
When Google is ranking websites, they generally have a preference for sites that are relevant to the search query on a site-wide basis.
I know that sounds a little confusing so it’s best to show an example.
Say you’re about to have a baby and need to buy a crib mattress for your little one, so you hop onto Google and search for “best crib mattress”.
Let’s see what Google brings back:
So on the first page ...
The first seven results are specifically sites about babies/parenting or sleeping—which makes sense, because the keyword “best crib mattress” really touches on those two different niches, not just one.
Now this probably isn’t a surprise to you, but it’s important.
Google is ranking these websites on the first page because their niches align perfectly with the search query!
You notice how there aren’t any cooking, personal finance, or travel sites ranking here?
It’s because those niches have NOTHING TO DO with babies or sleeping!
I know: this is obvious, but you’ve probably never really thought of it, have you?
So if you have a site that covers cooking and personal finance and travel ...
Your chances for ranking for keywords related to personal finance are less than if you had a site that focused ONLY on personal finance …
Because in Google’s eyes, you are LESS RELEVANT.
#3. Content Quality
Ok, so we know that it’s really important for your content to match user intent and for your website to be relevant to the keywords you are targeting.
But that’s not enough!
No. The third thing that Google looks for when ranking websites is the quality of your content.
Now, “quality” is hard to define here because it’s pretty subjective: what you consider good quality may be different than how I define it. So it’s not easy to pin down.
But we can try!
What do I think “quality” means?
Well, to steal Chase Reeves’s definition, I think it means writing EPIC shit!
Here’s Chase’s definition spelled out a little bit more:
"Write things that make people think. Inspire people. Change lives. Create value. Blow people away with your usefulness."
Yes. Yes, I like that. Value and usefulness. Those are the two words that resonate most with me.
When people finish reading your posts, did they learn something new?
Are they able to do something now that they weren’t able to do before?
Do the feel inspired?
That’s useful and valuable content! And Google loves it!
Want an example? Then check out the Nerd Fitness Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet.
It’s one of the most epic pieces of fitness content you’ll find anywhere!
First of all, it’s over 5,500 words—and epic content tends to be long and detailed.
Second, it has custom graphics and big headings and short paragraphs which make the content attractive and easy to read:
Third, it’s incredibly educational and actionable. I know what I can and can’t eat on Paleo!
Per SimilarWeb, NerdFitness gets nearly 4 million visitors a month and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are easily clearing six figures per month.
Of course, not every single piece of content you produce is going to be epic … but that should be your goal, shouldn’t it?
To blow away your audience?
Your readers will love you ... and so will Google.
#4. Authority (Backlinks)
So, to quickly recap:
When you’re structuring your blog posts, you want to be sure that ...
- 1Your content matches user intent
- 2Your website as a whole is niched down so that it is actually relevant to the keywords you’re going after
- 3Your content is epic!
All three of these are actually quite easy to accomplish: you just have to be thoughtful and intentional when you’re building out your content so that it aligns with these three goals.
But there’s a fourth piece of the puzzle that we need to talk about that’s equally important but a lot harder to achieve: authority.
In my last post I defined authority like so:
"Sites with authority have a better chance of ranking highly in Google. They are trusted sites in Google’s eyes and Google loves to rank sites that they trust.
But how does your blog get authority so that Google will trust it?
At the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing: backlinks."
The best way to think about authority is like a voting system: when Site A links back to Site B, it’s sending a message to Google that Site B is a quality site with good information that should be trusted.
And since higher quality sites with more useful information will naturally attract more links than lower quality site with less useful information ...
Google will generally rank the sites with more links (aka sites with more authority) higher in the search results!
So how do we check the authority of a website?
I personally use Ahrefs but you can also use Moz.com since they are free and they basically use a similar grading system.
Just go to their Open Site Explorer tool and paste in the domain you want to check on:
Here we can see that TheSpruce.com has a “Domain Authority” of 85 (out of 100), which is exceptionally good—they have a LOT of authority and it’s easier for them to rank higher in Google because they have so many backlinks.
And you can see this in action in this example below.
Say you are on the hunt for a French Press coffee maker and so you search in Google for “best french press”.
Here’s what Google shows for the top 5 results:
This is an interesting search result because you can see the top three websites are actually NOT coffee sites, yet they are ranking ahead of two sites specifically about coffee.
So what is going on here?
Didn’t we just establish before that the relevancy of your site is extremely important?
If that is the case, then why are three NON-coffee sites sitting in the top three positions for this search result?
Because their authority is extremely high!
You can see in the screenshot above that The Spruce, Business Insider, and Consumer Reports all have very high “DR*” numbers: between 89 and 92 (out of 100)!
*DR is Ahrefs’ Domain Rating metric but it’s very similar to Moz’s Domain Authority metric.
And the two coffee sites below them only have DR ratings of 44 and 43, which is still pretty good but nowhere as close as authoritative as the sites ranking ahead of them.
And so for this particular search result, Google has decided to rank the first three sites ahead of the next two in part due to their authority, even though their relevance is much lower (i.e. they cover many more topics than just coffee).
So sometimes relevance can trump authority (like in our “best crib mattress” example) ...
And sometimes authority can trump relevance (like in our “best french press” example).
But … the thing to know is:
When you can combine and implement all three elements into your blog …
Intent, relevance, and authority …
Your site will become an unstoppable powerhouse!
Chapter 4: Keywords Are Still Important
I’ve heard quite a few bloggers say recently that they don’t bother with keyword research because they’re writing for humans, not Google.
Not the second part, mind you … I definitely agree with that: when you’re writing content, you absolutely want to write for your audience … not Google.
You still need to optimize your content with the right keywords if you want Google to rank you and give you free traffic.
Bottom line: you need to let Google know what your content is about!
And how do we do that?
By using the right keywords.
Write About What People Are Searching For
Let’s take a simple example.
Say you have a blog about growing and monetizing your blog and you have been killing it on Pinterest lately, so you want to show your readers how they can make money by being active on Pinterest and driving traffic back to their site.
You fire up WordPress and enter your title, which is pretty catchy and will pique some curiosity when you post it to Pinterest: “I made $2,000 From Pinterest Last Month And So Can You”.
Then you bang out a killer post without paying any attention to keywords (because you write for humans, not Google), hit publish and hope Google will give you some traffic.
Yeah, this is not how we want to write our content.
Why? Because no one is searching for the phrase “I made $2,000 From Pinterest Last Month And So Can You” in Google!
With just a bit of upfront research we can still create a killer piece of content but which is actually optimized for Google. (Notice how I said optimized for Google, not written for Google?)
Ok. So we know we still want to write about making money on Pinterest so we head over to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and type in “make money pinterest” as our keyword.
Let’s see what it spits back:
This screen is showing us a couple of things:
- 1We can see that about 90 people search for “make money pinterest” every month … which isn’t a whole lot (very generally speaking I like to target keywords with 1,000+ searches per month)
- 2We can see that Ahrefs has suggested a “parent topic” that might be a better keyword for us to target: “how to make money on pinterest”, which gets 1,400 searches per month! Bingo!
We know that nearly 1,500 people are searching Google for this phrase each month, and it relates exactly to what our blog post topic is about …
So this would be GREAT to use for our main keyword and to incorporate into our blog post title (Remember: your main keyword is generally always included in your blog post title).
How about a blog post title like this? “How To Make Money on Pinterest (The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide)”
So it’s still a reasonably catchy title that will draw in readers, and it’s also optimized for Google search since it includes the keyword “how to make money on pinterest”, which we know a lot of people are searching for!
Since this isn’t meant to be a detailed guide on keyword research, I won’t go any deeper into the topic here … but just know that this is only Step 1 of your keyword research process 🙂
After you do research for your main keyword / blog post title, you want to keep going by looking for related, smaller keywords (also called “long tail keywords” that you can also sprinkle throughout your blog post.
What To Write About If You Don’t Have Any Authority Yet?
A common question a lot of bloggers have is what kind of keywords should you be targeting if you don’t have much authority yet?
While it’s true that when you’re first starting out and don’t have a lot of backlinks yet and your authority is low it's going to be hard to rank …
I still say you should target any keyword in your niche that has the potential to give you good targeted traffic …
Even if that keyword has a lot of strong competition and you might not be able to rank for it right away.
If you’re treating your blog as a business and are in it for the long run—and let’s be clear about one thing: SEO is a long-term play—then your goal should be able to rank for any relevant keyword in your niche and create epic content around it, regardless of how difficult it is.
I’ll have a future, dedicated guide to keyword research which dives into this topic more carefully.
Chapter 5: On-Page SEO
While it’s great that we identified our main keyword and included it in our blog post title, we still have a lot of work to do.
Remember earlier when we said we want to make sure Google knows what our whole site is about?
Well, the same is true about each individual post that we publish to our blog!
And the term for all these little tweaks we make to our content and post information (title, URL, meta description, etc) is called “on-page SEO”.
On-page SEO is actually really freaking easy, but also really important and you don’t want to screw up.
On a post-by-post basis*, this is all you really need to know.
*Note for right now we are ignoring things like website speed and mobile-friendliness, which are definitely extremely important, but are out of scope here.
9 Tips For Optimizing Your On-Page SEO
1. Use Your Main Keyword In Your Post Title
As we just discussed, it’s ideal to include your main keyword someone in the title of your post.
This gives Google a big red flashing signal right off the bat that this is what your post is about, which in turn will help them rank you for that keyword.
So in our previous example of how to make money on Pinterest …
Optimized: “How To Make Money on Pinterest (The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide)”.
Not Optimized: “I made $2,000 From Pinterest Last Month And So Can You”
2. Keep Your URL Slug Short & Sweet
The URL slug for your blog posts are just the characters that come after your domain name. For example:
This isn’t going to make or break your SEO performance, but remember: we are all about optimizing our content for Google.
And big, long, ugly URLs aren’t doing you any favors. Keep your URL slugs short and sweet and, ideally, include your keyword in there as well.
Not optimized: stupidsimpleseo.co/how-to-make-money-on-pinterest-the-ultimate-step-by-step-guide
Note: in the "optimized" example you’ll see I excluded the word “how” , and this is because generally speaking, you don’t want to use any “stop” words in your slugs (e.g., “how”, “to”, “and”, etc).
By the way, you can edit your URL slug directly in WordPress.
3. Use A Click-Worthy Meta Description
Your meta description is the little box of text that appears under your blog post title in the Google search results:
I find that your average SEO guru overemphasizes the importance of your meta description—it’s definitely best practice to optimize, just not absolutely crucial—but it’s good to get in the habit of not only writing out a meta description for each blog post (some people leave it blank), but also including your keyword AND making it click-worthy.
Remember, the whole point of the meta description is to entice the person searching in Google to actually click on your blog post!
So don’t be lazy and just throw up some boring meta description—make it pop!
One quick copywriting I technique to craft a lot of my meta descriptions is the Problem-Agitate-Solve Formula.
This simple formula works like this:
So in our example post of How To Make Money On Pinterest, I might write a meta description that looks like this …
Not making any money on your blog from Pinterest? You know tons of bloggers are killing it on Pinterest, but you just can’t seem to figure it out. In this detailed guide, we’ll show you exactly how to make money on Pinterest step-by-step.
Ok, so I literally just typed that up in 15 seconds but I think you get the idea.
Make your metas click-worthy and don’t forget to include your main keyword!
4. Include Your Keyword In The Beginning Of Your Post
Again, this is another one of those “best practice” tips that’s good to get in the habit of doing, but won’t make or break your SEO.
Including your main keyword at the beginning of your post (aim for within the first 100-200 words) ties back to the concept of letting Google know what your content is all about!
5. Sprinkle LSI Keywords Throughout Your Post
LSI keywords are just thematic keywords that help Google understand your content better (are you starting to understand how important this concept is?)
You can see a visual of this idea here:
Basically, how does Google understand the difference between a person searching for information on the latest Apple Watch Keynote, vs information on how to make an apple pie?
Well, in part, they do it by examining the LSI keywords on your page, as seen above.
So it’s a good idea to sprinkle these keywords naturally within your content so that you rank for more related keywords.
LSI Graph is a neat (free) tool that allows you to search for these LSI keywords.
We just plug in our main keyword; in this example we’ll pretend we’re writing a blog post on 101 Coconut Oil Benefits:
And LSI Graph will spit out a whole bunch of LSI keywords:
Now, when we’re writing our post on the 101 Benefits of Coconut Oil, we’ll probably want to add some sections on the keywords/concepts I’ve indicated above.
Not only will this hammer home with Google what we’re writing about (relevance), but it will also help us rank for those additional keywords!
Just remember to only include the keywords that are relevant to the topic you are writing about and which match your user intent, and to not spam your article with hundreds of these keywords in nonsensical places (always use them naturally).
6. Use Internal Links To Link To Related Content On Your Own Site
If letting Google know what our site and our content are about is so important, then internal linking is our best friend.
Internal linking is exactly what it sounds like …
Say you are writing a post how to build an emergency fund. And somewhere in that post you mention the importance of creating a budget.
Well, what do you know: you also have a really great guide on your blog on how to create a budget you can actually stick to.
So in your post about emergency funds, when you get to the part about creating a budget, you simply interlink to your post about creating a budget.
That’s all there is to it.
And this helps your SEO in two ways …
One, you’re letting Google know that not only are you creating great content about one topic (emergency funds), but you also have another great piece of content about another topic (budgeting) and that they are incredibly relevant to each other.
Two, you are helping spread the “link juice” of your site around, so any authority that your emergency funds post eventually picks up will spread to your budgeting post as well, helping it to climb higher in the rankings.
7. Link To Other Authoritative Websites In Your Niche
You don’t only want to link to your own site, though.
You should also make it a point, where it makes sense, to link out to other, authoritative sites in your niche as well.
For example, in your post about emergency funds, say you want to give your reader a reference point about the “snowball method” … and so you include a link back to Dave Ramsey.
This is smart to do for a couple of reasons:
First, you are being helpful to your reader by providing them with additional, helpful information. And that’s the whole point about creating content—to help your audience and solve their problems!
Second, by linking to Dave Ramsey’s site, you are adding thematic relevance to your own site by associating it with a bigger site with more authority in the same niche. This sends more relevance signals to Google!
Finally, you are showing Google that you are a trusted resource yourself for information about personal finance because you are including so many high-quality sources!
8. Optimize Your Images With Keywords
Ok, I have to be honest: I almost didn’t include this tip because it’s so overstated and I actually don’t think it’s that important …
(You'll see in this very post that not all of my images are optimized).
But then I remind myself that following “best practices” has never gotten anyone in trouble with SEO before, and so I include it here.
When you’re adding images to your post in WordPress, it’s a good idea to include relevant keywords in both the Title and the Alt Text like so:
This is because the Googlebot cannot actually “read” those images (it can only read text), so by including some keyword-optimized Alt Text in the image files, we’re helping the Googlebot read the file.
Again … I see a lot of SEO gurus listing this as like a “top 5 SEO tip” when it really won’t move the needle, but it’s good to know I guess.
9. Create Epic Content
I saved the most important tip for last.
We already touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating here: when you’re publishing content to rank highly in Google, you should really aim to create EPIC, long form content!Check out this graph from Backlinko:
In short, they analyzed over 1 million Google search results and found that the average first page result in Google is 1,890 words!
Simple: Google loves long, in-depth, resourceful blog posts!
And that means the days of tapping out run-of-the-mill 500-word blog posts and calling it a day are long gone.
Chapter 6: The #1 Google Ranking Factor (Backlinks)
Here’s an unfortunate truth …
You could produce the most epic and niche-relevant blog post the world has ever seen ...
But if your site doesn’t have a lot of backlinks pointing to it, you’re going to have a terrible time ranking in Google.
Because backlinks are still the most important ranking factor.
If you want to rank highly in Google and drive organic traffic back to your site, you need backlinks!
And why is that?
Remember when we talked about “authority” in Chapter 3?
And that Google tends to favor sites with a lot of authority when they’re ranking sites?
Backlinks = authority.
But not just any backlinks.
No. We want backlinks from sites that are relevant to our niche and authoritative themselves!
Let’s dive into this a little deeper ...
5 Characteristics Of A Good Backlink
In my view, a “good” backlink is …
Now let’s break these down one-by-one …
1. Do-Follow Backlinks
I’m not going to write an entire post on do-follow vs no-follow, but if you don’t know what the difference is, read this article.
Just know that 1) a no-follow backlink does NOT help your SEO; 2) the good news is that most of the links that we are chasing are by-default do-follow, so this isn’t really something you have to worry about.
Generally, the only time another site owner or blogger would no-follow your link is if it’s in a comment you left on their site—which happens automatically, and “comment links” are useless anyway—or if it’s a paid/sponsored post, but we don’t want sponsored post links, so again, it doesn’t matter.
2. Editorially-Placed Backlinks
Speaking of not wanting sponsored post links …
All of the links that are worth building are given “editorially” and NOT paid for.
What does that even mean?
It’s when another blogger links out to you because they wanted to: either because your link added more information for their readers, or they wanted to cite a source, or they wanted to quote you, etc.
For example, when I link out to Jeff over at Breaking The One Percent here in this very post …
It’s an “editorially placed” link because I was quoting him and wanted to give him credit.
It’s really that simple.
Now … what’s an example of something that is NOT editorially-placed?
When you pay another blogger to give you a do-follow link!
And you definitely do NOT want to do that.
Remember: Do not pay for links, ever. It’s against Google’s TOS and eventually they will find out you’re doing it and penalize your site so hard that you will never rank in their search results again.
This has happened to thousands of sites (just Google “Google Penguin” if you’re curious) and is the dumbest thing you could possibly do.
Seriously: do not pay for links!
And if another blogger is asking for a “guest posting fee” to guest post on their site — a post that you are creating for FREE for them so they have FREE content to give THEIR readers and which will take HOURS of your precious, limited time to write—please tell them to kindly fuck off.
3. Backlinks Within The Context Of A Post Or Page
Now this one might not seem like a big deal, but it is …
You know how usually when you’re writing a guest post for someone else’s site, you get a “bio box” waaaay at the end of the post that looks like this?
Yeah, those links are not exactly worthless but they are definitely devalued by Google as they appear after the post.
What is much more preferable is a link within the actual post itself!
So when you’re guest posting for another blog, try your best to include a link not just in the bio box, but within the post as well.
This graphic by Moz helps explain this a little better visually:
You’ll see that links in the sidebar and the footer/bottom of a post pass less value than a link smack dab in the middle of a page.
4. Backlinks On A Website With Good Authority
We’ve talked about authority a bit already but I just want to drive the point home a little more, ok?
If you just started a new personal finance blog, would you rather have a link from Mr. Money Mustache or from a PF blogger who just launched their site three weeks ago?
Of course, a link from Mr. Money Mustache is much better from an SEO perspective because MMM’s site has a lot of authority!
How do we know?
Again, we can use Moz’s free Open Site Explorer and check the Domain Authority score:
A Domain Authority (DA) of 66 is excellent and we would kill for a link from MMM!
So, generally speaking you want to try and get links from high-authority sites. But this is all relative and really depends on your own site’s authority too.
What do I mean?
Well, if you’re a new blogger, you don’t have any authority yet so getting a link from another personal finance blog with a DA score of even 10 is good because it’s better than ours.
But if you’re a PF blogger and you’ve built up your authority over the years to a DA score of, say, 45, then we really shouldn’t be chasing links from sites with a lower DA than us (not that it will hurt us, it’s just not really worth the effort).
So a quick rule of thumb: if you are actively chasing links via a guest post or another form of outreach, then it’s best to focus on sites with a Domain Authority that is equal or greater than yours.
5. Backlinks That Are Niche-Relevant To Our Post And/Or Site
I’ve been droning on and on about relevance throughout this entire post, so you didn’t think I’d forget about its importance here, did you? 🙂
It’s pretty simple: we want to get links from sites whose niche is at least somewhat related to ours!
Think about it: if you’re a food blogger and the majority of your links come from dog training sites, would that make a lot of sense?
Would Google start to think that something fishy was going on, and devalue the importance of those links?
Yes. Yes, they would. Because dog training has nothing to do with food and recipes!
So even if a dog site with high domain authority linked to your food site, Google isn’t likely to give it much weight because it’s irrelevant to your site!
So, yeah: always try to build links that are relevant to your niche.
I will say there is one exception to this rule, and it’s on a post-by-post basis …
Let’s say you’re a mommy blogger and you are writing an epic guide on how doing pilates helped you get in shape and you included all these helpful pilates tips.
And you emailed a couple of fitness bloggers and asked them to check out your guide, since it was so epic and you wanted to share.
And a few of those fitness bloggers loved your post so much that they posted it on their site to share with their readers.
Would Google consider these links “relevant”?
Yeah, I think so.
Because even though you’re in the mommy blogger niche, it’s totally normal for moms to write about fitness and exercise once in a while, and an epic post about pilates would naturally attract links from blogs in the fitness niche.
So no problem there.
I hope this beginner’s guide helped you to understand SEO in plain English.
There were definitely some things I left out, mostly on the “technical” side, and I did that for a reason:
For our purposes, as bloggers and content creators, they’re simply not that important.
Also ... I’ve also been a big believer in the 80/20 principle when it comes to SEO:
If you focus on ...
- 1Being niche relevant
- 2Optimizing for the right keywords
- 3Creating epic content
- 4Building up your authority with high quality links
You’ll have the most important things under control and your SEO is bound to improve as as result.
If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I'd love to hear it below!
P.S. In my next post I'm going to share with you an interesting case study where I used something called the The GuestoRoundup Technique to build dozens of backlinks to my outdoors site when I first launched it. Make sure you're signed up to my email list to get notified when it's published 🙂