Beginner WordPress SEO (Part 1): How to Optimize Your Blog Posts

by Paul Suntup · 86 comments

WordPress SEO

Getting high search engine rankings for your blog takes work. A lot of work. While we all know the benefits of SEO, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to focus on both SEO and developing a quality product or business.

What can you do? You could hire a SEO consulting firm like Outspoken Media, but if you lack a budget, this article is perfect for you.

Everyone knows that creating fresh, engaging content helps build a loyal following and attract links. However, if you’re looking to improve your SEO with no budget, you can tweak your existing articles to prime it for high search engine rankings.

Now I’m not saying that your website will shoot up into Google’s top 3. I’m also not going to tell you to stuff as many keywords into your post as possible. If I did, that would be cheesy and I would be lying.

Instead, I will say this: if you focus on these 7 key areas of on-page SEO, you can improve your search engine rankings. How do I know this? Because it worked for me.

Conduct Keyword Research

You could try and guess what what people type when they use a search engine, but with free Keyword Research tools available, it’s wasted effort.

What are some of the best, free keyword tools? You could use the Google tool, or one that I like is Wordtracker. In addition, you can use this tool from Google to research trends in search phrases.

If you’re looking for a premium keyword research tool, look no further than SEObook.com, SEOmoz.org, or Raven Tools.

Focus on Low-Competition Keyphrases

Don’t waste your time going after highly competitive keywords with on-site optimization because you won’t be able to nab them.

So, how do you know if a keyword or keyphrase is competitive?

Take one of the phrases you found while conducting keyword research, type it into Google search using quotations (ex. “how to install Thesis Theme Framework”), and then look at the number that appears below the search box.

search result exampleFigure 1: See the 12,900 results below the Search Box? That’s the number you’re looking for.

If the number is large (over 75,000), I’d avoid it because it’s highly competitive. If it’s small, I’d focus on it because it should be much easier to score a top ranking.

Note, just because a keyword or phrase isn’t competitive doesn’t mean it won’t send traffic. And if it doesn’t send much traffic, that doesn’t matter either because the traffic it does send is highly targeted. For example, I once optimized a post that landed the #1 position in Google and it helped me make a $1500 sale.

Choose One Keyword or Phrase, and then Write or Tweak Your Article

While you want a keyphrase with little competition, you’ll also want it to have some search traffic (greater than zero). Then, either write a post that targets that keyphrase or go back through some of your older articles and tweak them for a specific phrase.

I’m not saying that you should let that keyphrases dictate what you write about. Instead, find a phrase that relates to your topic, and craft a helpful article around it. Remember, quality content matters. The higher the quality, the better chance it will garner links and then rank in search engines.

For example, if you run a blog about Kangaroos, and one of your researched keyphrases is “what do kangaroos eat”, then you might want to write a blog post about that.

Use Your Keyphrase In Your Post Title and Title Tags

Yep, simple as that. Use the keyphrase in the title of your post and in your title tags.

Repeat the Keyphrase in Your Article.

You want to build a loyal following, so don’t go crazy with this. Instead, what I mean is, if you want to rank for your keyphrase, you must use it. Avoid creating nicknames or trying to be clever. In the end, clear and concise wins. As a rule of thumb, try to include your keyphrase early on in your article or in a H2 tag. While this may have little impact on your rankings, it will help show your readers that they’re reading the right piece of content.

Use the Keyphrase in your Meta Description tags

Using keywords in your meta description tags does not help you rank higher. However, when you include them, when people search on Google for a specific keyword, Google bolds the keyphrase in the search results. So, while it may not help you rank higher, it will encourage people to click on your search results.

Find Images Related to Your Keyphrase

Think about it. If you were looking for information on Kangaroos, when you visited a website, would it make sense to have a picture of a Kanagaroo on it? Absolutely.

So, when you publish your articles, ensure that you find related images and use your keyphrase in the alt description of your image. This is beneficial for two reasons: first, it helps search engines see that you’re trying to create a complete piece of content, and second, it’s great for accessibility.

Other SEO Factors

There are, of course, other factors that influence your search engine rankings that I don’t talk about here. However, if you want to focus on building your business and creating great content, these 7 areas can help kick-start your SEO without becoming a full-time job. If you have any other quick hints that you think people will find useful, feel free to leave a comment.

About the Author: Paul Suntup is a full time web designer and the guy behind Zel Creative. You can check out his work at zelcreative.com, or catch him on Twitter (@zelcreative). He's also a Featured Thesis Designer.

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{ 86 comments }

Robin

Truly the best SEO tips for beginners and intermediate level of users. :) Cheers.

_Robin

Rob @ Atlanta Real Estate

Yeah, good basic stuff, but it’s better to get it right from the beginning than to try and fix it later and wait for Google to notice and adjust….which may actually never happen.

Angela Mahler

Great post! It seems counterintuitive to go after low-competition keywords but after reading this, it makes sense. Thanks!

Paul

Thanks Angela. Yes, there’s gold in them thar hills as the saying goes… Just because you can’t really capture that gusher right out the gate, there is certainly decent traffic out there for the less competitive keyphrases.

Rob @ Atlanta Real Estate

Good to go after both. You can make serious ground with the low com KWs from day one.

All the while, work on the biggies over much longer time frames.

If you do it right, you will be surprised with the results. I was!

Gluten Free Diva

Thank you Paul.This is extremely valuable to me.I just migrated from blogger to Thesis specifically for SEO improvement. I can’t wait to begin implementing your tips.

Ellen
Glute Free Diva

Paul

Thanks for commenting and I am pleased that these tips are useful for you. Good luck.

Josh

Hey Paul,

I have been trying to figure out the answer to a very simple question of mind.
“What makes Thesis such a good option as a Wordpress theme when compared with another similar theme like Canvas from Woothemes”

You may wish to answer without drawing comparisons :)

Cheers.
J

Paul

Josh, good question. You have to compare apples with apples as the saying goes. To me, Thesis is more of a theme “framework” than a typical WordPress “theme.” Although it works just great “out of the box”, it is also much more than that and forms the foundation upon which you will build your final theme.

You asked me to answer without drawing comparisons, but you’re also referenced Canvas/Woothemes. Without comparing to these specifically, some WordPress themes are better suited for people who want to do minimal “tinkering” with the theme. In other words, the theme already looks and functions like they want for the most part.

With Thesis, you have a great deal of control over how you want the final theme to look and function. Some reasons I like it so much is because it provides a very powerful foundation for the site I am building. The SEO features are already built in, the typography is solid, there is an extensive options panel for control over various design/layout settings and you have almost limitless control over both design and function, without worrying about having your updates overwritten when you do an update.

So basically it comes down to your personal tastes and what you’re trying to achieve with your website. Each situation is different.

Jarkko Haarala

Is it SEO wise to edit old posts? I read somewhere that search engines thinks that then it is as dublicate content.. I know nothing about this topic but willing to learn for sure

Paul

Hi Jarkko. I don’t consider myself an SEO expert, but in my opinion editing old posts doesn’t really have much to do with duplicate content. When referring to editing posts you’ve already published, it might just mean that you’re checking the title tags, or making sure you’re at least using your target keyphrase a few times in your post. This guide should be more along the lines of a basic philosophy which you can follow when creating your posts.

Jarkko Haarala

Thank you for your opinion, I dare to edit those anyway :D

Also thanks for the grat post. It opened my yes a lot.

Mergen, WebGuru Co Ltd

@Jarkko make sure to not change your alias, which would change your URL. If you do change your URL or if you have recently changed it, make sure to use 301 redirection to point from your old URL to the new URL. This way all of the “link juice” transfers.

Julie Groth

Thanks. That was a great post. The keyword thing is hard to sort out and I have had success with low competition keywords.

But, what about the BIG keywords with lots of searches and higher competition. Should you build toward those over time? Like put them in tags, in articles, in meta descriptions…knowing that you won’t rank now but sort of building over time? Does that make sense?

Paul

Hi Julie. Sure, it isn’t going to hurt to do that, but the more competitive they are lower the chance of ranking for them in the organic results. If you’re going to go after super competitive keywords that generate a ton of traffic if you rank for them, then perhaps a different strategy might be needed. Most likely some off-site SEO work.

Rick Henderson

Nice little article. It reminds me that with all the SEO work going on these days, when you learned HTML by hand you knew you had to use the title tags, the meta keywords and the meta description tags. I like how you have specifically labelled a magic number for low competition. I’ll look forward to reading more from you Paul.

Kat

Great post for beginners–easy to understand without getting too complicated.

I’d recommend this keyword research tool: Market Samurai. It’s super affordable, intuitive and a very comprehensive tool set.

John Ringgold

This is a great post! Very simple to follow. I’d love to see some screenshots of the admin side of one of your well ranked posts. The post title, the thesis seo section, the post tags, etc.

Is your post title and custom title tag the same? always?

Do you add a meta description yourself, or force the search engines to pull it?

Do your meta keywords match your post tags?

I think I’m doing it all correctly, but it’d be great to see an example of something that worked. :)

Paul

Hi John, thanks for your comment. I don’t think a screenshot will be that helpful because each post is different but here’s some answers to your questions which I think will be helpful for you. I will typically make the post title and the title meta tag the same but I might include a word or two extra on the title tag to make it more compelling for the person to click when they see it in the search results.

With respect to the meta description, I always write that myself, using the keyphrase near the beginning of the description.

As to meta keywords, truthfully I don’t really spend much time on those at all and sometimes even leave them out. From what I’ve learned and read, these are less and less important. But what you may want to do is add them but don’t spend a whole lot of time on it.

Hopefully that helps. Don’t obsess about it. I used to do that at first but now I just make sure I’m aware of these guidelines while writing a post. Ultimately write good solid content that is informative and useful for readers, and give them an reason to come back. You’ll find that you will generate inbound links over time because of this.

Rose

Great post. I thought I knew all that but I did learn something new from your post. Thanks for all the useful emails too I always read them and pick up a thing or two.

Lewis Poretz

Great stuff Paul –

I just read an article that google rank will soon take a backseat to viral blogs and comments. Any thoughts on that?

Paul

Hi Lewis. Thanks for commenting. I’m not completely following you here. Perhaps I’d need to read this article you’re referring to so I don’t take anything out of context.

Ciao Florentina

Than you for this info, my only confusion is this: I rank No1 on Google for the keyword ” Florentina ” , there are over 5 million results. Why don’t I get substantial traffic from this keyword ?

Paul

Hi there. Thanks for your comment. It’s pretty good that you have such a high ranking for this keyword. The reason you don’t get much traffic from it could be that there aren’t that many monthly searches. I checked the Google keyword tool and according to that, there are thousands, but when I run it on the Wordtracker tool which I feel is more meaningful, there are only about 180 or so a month. Perhaps someone who knows more about this could share their insights, but I’d say it’s because there are just not that many searches using this keyword.

Ciao Florentina

Thanks Paul, that makes more sense now. I’ll eventually figure out SEO between Muffins and Pizza Ha!
If anyone here wants to SEO for food let me know ;)

Stijn

One more free tool to use is the wonder wheel in Google search results. I’m not saying I use this all the time or that is forms the basis of my SEO. But it does provide some insights into related keywords as well entire phrases.

The wonder wheel can be found amongst the filters on the left hand side of your SERP.

Rick Lomas

It’s also worth saying that when you find an image, call it your-keyword.jpg and also have the ‘alt text’ = your keyword – that’ll help get it into Google images too.

Trenton Scott

Great idea! I frequently search Google Images and it seems like, if done properly, this could be a good source of high-quality traffic.

Mergen, WebGuru Co Ltd

Agree with everyone. I could not have explained SEO on page optimization basics any better. Great job, Paul

Ciao Florentina

What do you think of Alexa ? One day they show me as no 80.000 website and the next day I have no ranking ? Is that something a blogger should care about ?

Paul

Well, I don’t know too much about Alexa. I just have a plugin for Firefox that shows me what the Alexa rank is but that’s about it. I’ve never experienced the type of fluctuation you’re referring to though. My Alexa rank seems to remain consistent and improve slowly over time.

JAWAR

Paul, thank you for the straightforward, simple to read information. Continued Success. If you don’t mind sharing what are some ways you monetize your blogs?

Paul

Hi Jawar, thanks for commenting. I’ve used Adsense as well as affiliate links and banners to monetize my sites. I’ve got Adsense up to a consistent monthly number now which is somewhat satisfying. Affiliate marketing can be more profitable because typically the commission on a single sale can be more than a week of Adsense clicks. But every case is different. Both work in my opinion, but at the end of the day, it mostly comes down to traffic. The more visitors you have the more you’ll make on both methods.

Caleb Griffin

What’s a “title tag”? Is that the same as the Post Tag field on my Add New Post screen? Great article! I was worried that I’d have to spend money to get any keyword research.

Paul

Hi Caleb. No, the title tag is not the same as a post tag. Post tags are just a way that you can tag related posts for categorization or grouping purposes. A title tag is an HTML tag that appears within the code of the web page. The only place you typically see it is at the very top of the browser window, and in the organic search results. When you view the source of a web page, it looks something like this:

<title>This is Your Title Tag</title>

In Thesis you can easily add the title tag in the post edit screen where you see the “SEO” options. Hope that helps and thanks for commenting.

roni

these are really obvious beginner tips, do you have anything a little more advanced?

Derek

If they’re so obvious, how come you don’t use them on your site?

Paul

Hi Roni. Yes, you’re correct. These are beginner tips, which was the intent of this post as indicated in the title. As to some advanced strategies, that’s something perhaps for a separate post. Thanks for the suggestion.

Gerry

I like the approach, I suppose what I’m unsure about is:
1: Using a set of key words for you site tages versus words for your post tags – is there a strategy you’d suggest or is it the same just differet words?

Paul

Using your keyphrases in your Title and Description tags is more important than in your post tags. Also don’t confuse a post tag with an HTML title or meta description tag. They’re unrelated. It can’t hurt to use the keywords in the post tags if you’d like. I don’t really have a specific strategy for that. I typically just add tags to a post that are related to the post and don’t think too much about these in terms of SEO.

Prakash

Hi Paul,

It was a great job with posting dude. It was more helpful to us for optimizing our blog posts, Also helpful for every wordpress SEO beginners. It sounds great with its effective & useful tips for the blog optimization. It gives the simple instructions which are easy to be noted with clear illustration. Will follow these tips to optimize our blog posts soon.

Thx for this nice sharing. Keep on sharing good things always like this, Congrats.

Moz

Great article thanks
I have a question How to edit and control the h1, h2 etc in Thesis it’s possible ?
Thanks

Paul

Hi Moz. Yes, good question. Thesis will automatically wrap your post titles in <h1> tag on the single post page. You can add <h2> tags manually in the body of your post. On the home page, post titles will be wrapped in an <h2> tag and your blog’s main Tagline (which you set in the WP dashboard under General Settings) will be wrapped in an <h1> tag.

Moz

Thanks Paul for your great post but what about h3 to h6 ?

Paul

<h3> is typically reserved for sidebar widget titles, which is the case with Thesis. As to <h4> to <h6>, these are arbitrary and you can manually use them wherever you’d like in your posts and pages. Remember, you can always ‘view source’ on your web pages and search for these tags in the HTML of the page to see where they are being used.

Trenton Scott

I’ve also read that, in terms of SEO, it’s best to only use one per-page (ideally with the title). This plays a key role in how Google figures out what your page is about (aside from the tag, description, and content of your post/page).

mote vasu

good seo tips for beginners how want to optimize there word press blog

Chirag

Nice SEO tips for people like me who have limited knowledge about the subject!

Rich Wiegand

Thanks Paul for your helpful suggestions. They make alot of sense and appear to be quite do-able for most folks.

Rose

Thanks for the help and insights I see your blog is doing well so you know what you’re talking about, cheers

Ankit Saini

Very informative guide on seo…
Thanks

Bruce.d.Stewart

Great article to keep on top of on page seo.
Just want to add for meta keywords I still drop in
5 just in case Bing & Yahoo use them, as Google doesn’t care for them now.

Alissa

I was wondering about content farming on google for seo. I didn’t understand really what it is for, but I was told to submit answers through this ie: ask. com etc.
thanks.

james samy

Paul your info is very simple and easy to understand. The wordtracker should i get free version or paid to change my way of writing post on my blog.
Thank you

Paul

Hi James. The free version is fine but if you want more options, you can get the paid one. Check out the site and it will give you a link showing what you get with the paid version.

Niels

Hi,

thanks for this cool Article Series!
Greetings from Germany

Niels

Gavin O.

the 7 areas helps kick-start on my SEO skill, i’m new in this field but the tips helped me that much. I see some of the of the aspects that I followed in SEO strategies are helpful too. In any search engines, my site rank-up a bit.

amits

can the Posts seoptimisation technique make up for the static aspect of posts?? forgive me if i am totally wrong…I am asking this coz of the below problem…
I wish to use the features of posts in my business website. Features like categories or tags which give better navigation to a viewer makes sense compared to Pages. however, i want to keep the pages relevant to search too.

Paul

Amits, I’m not entirely following you. Perhaps you can clarify your question.

Rajesh@Tips and Tricks

Great SEO tips for every WordPress user, thanks for such nice article.

satyaprakashramadhyani

hello Paul

Truly Your SEO along with 7 areas can help to kick start for even pilot learners with thrilled article with bucket full of Thanks..

David

Hi Paul, thanks for the tips. Do you use a particular tool for more detailed keyword research?

Paul

Hi David. No, I don’t really use any other tool for keyword research. I tend to spend more time just writing the posts, but I know there are some good ones out there. I can’t say with absolute certainty, because I don’t really use it, but I’m told that marketsamurai.com is good. Perhaps someone can comment here if they have some hands on experience with a keyword research tool.

Erica

Market Samurai is awesome! You can trial it for 7 days and you’ll get great little tutorials emailed daily to help you along during your trial. The great thing about Market Samurai is that it helps you find niche market words that also have commercial viability. Worth every penny when you decide to purchase : )

Brad

When I view the source for my home page, there is no H1 tag at all, other than h1 id=logo. Do I have something set wrong?

Paul

It could be that you need to show the site name and tagline. Look at the Design Options/Display Option section in the Thesis settings. Then expand “Header” and make sure both options are checked to show site name and tagline in header.

Dan

Paul, is it possible to customise Thesis so that:
- the H1 tag stays wrapped to the header image on all pages, not just the homepage;
- BUT, we want to assign the H1 tag on a per-page basis; i.e. different pages have different H1 tags wrapped to the header image.
And ideally, assign the H1 tag in the Page/Post editor.
Am I asking for too much ? :) Thanks !

Paul

If you wrap the header image in the H1, what text will be wrapped inside the H1? Having an empty H1 doesn’t really do much.

I’m sure what you’re looking to do here is possible, but was curious as to why you need to do this, and why need to wrap an image in an H1.

You have complete control over the content of the H1 on the home page and all pages inside the site. To give different pages different H1 tags, just use the text you want wrapped in the H1 as the title of the page.

I may not have the full picture here, but that’s what I’d suggest.

gourav

a very useful & handy guide on SEO for beginners, thanks for the great info

Paulo

Hello!

To improve the structure of the Thesis for SEO, I think it could improve the structure of Title Tags, such as:

H1 – for the post title
H2 – to the category of post
H3 – sub-titles for the post
H4 and H5 – for other titles and highlights.

What do you think?

Thank’s!

Tanya Malott

I am new to your blog (as of TODAY in fact!) and already I am learning so much! Today I learned that when you Google “New York Photographer”, you get 99,000,000 results….and I am on the first page! That makes me happy, though it doesn’t actually change my life. People do not find me (to hire me anyway) because they find me on Google. Many people write to me looking for work. Neither of these things is really working for me. I would love to know how to combine what I have (high rank), with something that is useful (more work). I am about to tear down my entire website and start again, and even offer information I can sell (goodness knows I have a few useful tips in my brain for photographers and wanna be photographers alike) but obviously I don’t want to ruin a good thing either. Any pointers?

RAJU

HELLO PAUL

Thanks for information. i little worry about search query when i search a keywords or phase from adwords tool and i chose a phase from which 50000 under but when i search these keywords to search on google its increse is value even in lacks.

how can i get a correct nformation.
thanks.

Salah Messaoud

the most clear and simple and easy advises I ever heard about SEO I dont know why many people making it sound complicated

Ray Creations

Very good suggestions or SEO there. However, this does not imply to Wordpress only, it can be applied to any website in general.

Dtrevino

Thanks for the helpful information. These are easy, practical steps that I can easily incorporate.

Erica

Very well written – excellent advice … look forward to reading the rest of your work : )

Josh Sarz

Thanks for the great tips.

Dennis J. Smith

Great information and easy to understand for beginners. I like the suggestion with the images and had really never thought about that. I always forget that their are keyword tools out there to make the job easier.

Sid Raden

It is in point of fact a nice and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

Alexandra

Hi there,

I did my best to read through all of these comments to see if my question had already been answered but didn’t see anything, so I apologize if it has been answered and I just missed it.

Basically I am confused as to the purpose, significance and relevance of an individual post’s TAGS when it comes to SEO. Do they even factor in? Or do post tags just have to do with relating to other posts on the site through common ideas or topics? And if that is the case, how is that different from categories?

I’ve also been including the same words I use for post tags in meta keywords – but based on your article I’m realizing I shouldn’t even bother with the meta keywords and just focus on the title, description and keyphrases, correct?

Thanks for the help!

Trung Nguyen

SEO is a must have task to do for any blogger/webmaster who wanted to get high quality traffic that will convert. Thanks for this post.

Berkah Lestari

Very inspiring, the lowest competition but get highest chance in search engine. a great post. Thanks

Jasjot

Is it worth to write the Meta description yourself or should we just let (force?) search engines pull the meta description based on the contents of the page?

Kundan Bhardwaj

I have been reading many articles and posts on wordpress seo but since I am not that tech sound so unable to do it. However your tips are impressive and lets see if it works for me and if I can do it as directed by you. So I will be in touch with you for the same and will be troubling you with my silly seo queries .

Yogendra Sharma

Yeah, It’s a good article covering the basics of WP posts for beginners and intermediate guys having little knowledge about SEO.

rahul

thanks man
your seo tips are really useful…
:)