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Serious Business. Seriously Funny.

PRE-WORK

*NOTE* Each of the 5 lessons is in both audio & text format. The text helps you visualize what you are learning and contains screenshots for some lessons.

Wanna know something cool? Organic search is my #1 traffic source for my website, Sweet Tea, LLC.

Organic search. Like, real people doing a little Googling for stuff I write about, and they’re finding me. Pretty stinkin’ cool, right?

The reason this is so cool is that I have control over that organic search traffic. By optimizing my blog properly, I can control how people find my business.

I want you to take back control.

I want you to increase your organic search traffic and be less dependent on things you can’t control - social media, Pinterest, happenstance...

Welcome to SE-OMG! A crash course in SEO for your blog.

PRE-WORK: Document your starting line.

First, CLICK HERE to access a free spreadsheet template I made for you. **BE SURE TO SAVE IT TO YOUR OWN GOOGLE DRIVE BEFORE USING IT!!!

Seriously, don't be "that guy" who alters the template & ruins the party for everybody. 

Ok, next you need to CLICK HERE to install a custom Google Analytics dashboard that will make this SO much easier. 

Now, you need to do this:

  • Change the dates in your analytics dashboard to the past 6 months.
  • Write down where your traffic has come from & write down your top percentages. The spreadsheet template will calculate that for you
  • On the left of your GA dashboard, click on Customization > Dashboards > Blog Stats. You're going to refer to 3 sections of this custom dashboard:

Section 1: How many visits were there to my blog? (total visits) >> This number goes in the ORANGE box on the spreadsheet.

Section 2: Which channels sent the most visitors? These referral sources will be put in the PURPLE boxes on the spreadsheet.

*One referral source will say "Social". You need to break this down further, so...

Section 3: My top ten social networks. Add these to the PURPLE boxes as well.

HERE'S WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE IN THE GOOGLE ANALYTICS DASHBOARD, AND WHERE TO PUT EVERYTHING IN THE SPREADSHEET: 

GA_Dashboard.png

Follow the directions in the spreadsheet to document your own numbers & save this spreadsheet for reference. You can use this every few months to see how you've grown.

Here's what my numbers look like as of September 2017:

  • 53% organic search (that's a 29% increase since February 2017)
  • 24% direct
  • 6% referral << other people's websites
  • 9% Pinterest
  • 6% Facebook
  • 2% << combination of Twitter, Instagram, etc.

(Guess what happens to my traffic when Facebook changes their algorithm? Nothing!)

What insights did you gain by looking into your Google Analytics today? Anything surprising?

 


LESSON 1: SEO TERMS

Over the course of this workbook, I'm going to show you how un-scary and un-confusing SEO really is. In fact, my goal is to make you love SEO. That's a tall order, but I'm tall, too. Like 5'8", or 6' in heels. So I can handle it.

I'm here to tell you: SEO is your best friend.

Why? Because you shouldn't depend on social media & Pinterest for your blog traffic. At least not entirely.

Social media & Pinterest change their algorithms more often than my teenage daughter changes her mind. (It's a lot. That's what I'm getting at.)

SEO, or search engine optimization, might not sound glamorous or fun, but it's mucho importante, friend. It's what helps your blog, and allllll that fabulous content you work so hard to create, get found in search by new eyeballs daily. And when new eyeballs find you, that increases your pageviews.

And hello? If you're running ads, you make more money when your pageviews go up. And you can charge more for sponsored posts. And if you're selling products or services, new eyeballs mean new leads! And...well, you get the idea.

So where do you start?

Before we can get into the actual strategy, I need to make sure you understand what I’m talking about throughout this workbook, so we’re going to start off with a little SEO Pop Quiz.

CLICK HERE to take the quiz. When you’re finished, you’ll get an SEO Terms Cheat Sheet to print off or save to your computer for future reference. You may need that as we go through the rest of this course.

The quiz is more than a quiz. I explain in normal language (not Google-nerd language) what all those terms mean & why you should care. Things like "anchor text", the difference between follow & no-follow links, what direct traffic really means...

So don't skip that quiz! It's really important that you have an understanding of SEO before we get into the nitty gritty, so take a few minutes and pop over there now to get it done.

At the completion of your quiz, you'll get a printable SEO cheat sheet that you can keep for reference.


LESSON 2: KEYWORDS

Back in March of 2016, I made the switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I seriously nerd out on all things email, so it wasn't enough for me to become a ConvertKit user. Oh no! I'm a Go Big or Go Home kinda girl! I had to become a certified ConvertKit expert.

WOOT! I took their training, got my fancy certification badge, and shifted my services to work with clients on the ConvertKit platform.

The issue? I was known as "The MailChimp Girl". For a couple years before switching to ConvertKit, I wrote blog posts, worked with clients, taught courses, and hosted webinars all centered around the MailChimp platform.

So my big issue was this: How do I become known as "The ConvertKit Girl" and gain new clients?

The answer: keyword strategy

Yep. I needed a keyword strategy BAD! With the strategy I created, I was able to rank on the first page of Google in less than 2 months for a keyword phrase my ideal client would search for: ConvertKit for bloggers.

Me_on_Page_1_of_Google.png

Now let's be clear on a few things before we get into this strategy:

  • Each blog post you publish should have a unique keyword or keyword phrase, one you haven't used previously.
  • When using this keyword strategy, the goal is to get your overall blog found for certain topics you write about often. Once your blog gets found for the big things, readers can see everything else you write about, but they have to find you first!

So how do you end up on the first page of search?

#1 - Know what your target reader is looking for and give it to them.

As I mentioned a minute ago, this is for your overall blog, not necessarily individual blog posts. Let me explain:

FIRST: Let's say you're a food blogger, and you love dessert recipes the most but you also share dinner & appetizer recipes. Focus first on getting found for the dessert recipes. Are there certain kinds of desserts you write about most often, like a subcategory of "dessert"? Cupcakes, cakes, cookies, etc.?

>> WHAT THIS LOOKED LIKE FOR ME: I write about all things blogging, but trying to rank on the first page of search for "blogging" is an impossible task. My main topic is email, or email marketing, which is also broad, but a bit more specific than blogging, right?

SECOND: Great, now get a bit more specific. Maybe it's cupcakes. What classification would you give most of your cupcakes? Gluten-free, chocolate, easy?

>> WHAT THIS LOOKED LIKE FOR ME: I wanted bloggers searching for email marketing tutorials to find me, but I still needed to get more specific. My goal was to find clients for my ConvertKit services, so I narrowed my keyword to something related to ConvertKit tutorials for bloggers.

THIRD: This is what I'll be referring to as your "big keyword" going forward. You will need to head to Google to see what wording people are using to search for your big keyword, and that's what you'll use going forward with this strategy.

>> WHAT THIS LOOKED LIKE FOR ME: When I did my own research, I discovered people were searching for "ConvertKit for bloggers", so that became my own big keyword.

#2 - Create a category page for your big keywords.

Now that you have one big keyword, it's time to organize your content.

Option A - Create a new page that will act as a category page or landing page for related content. The title should be your big keyword, so for me, I have a page called "ConvertKit for Bloggers".

Option B - Create a new category & add all related content to that category. Then add that category to your main menu.

#3 - Use internal backlinks with solid anchor text to link to your category page.

This is the piece of the keyword strategy that makes the Google magic happen.

All of the posts & pages on your blog that relate to your big keyword need to link to your category page with a follow link and solid, keyword-heavy anchor text.

You should already be linking to related content in every blog post, but we're going a step further. Within each blog post, you are going to craft one sentence that will direct readers to your main category page to continue reading about related content.

Within that anchor text, you will need to use your big keyword and be sure you use a follow link. You don't just want readers following a link - you want search bots following it, too.

BONUS: Do guest posts around your big keyword and link back to your category page.

If you really want to amp up your SEO results for this big keyword, reach out to bloggers in your niche with a larger following than you, and ask if you can do a guest post. Be very clear that you want to add at least one follow link within your post.

And guess where that one link will point people? Your category page! YES! Be sure your big keyword is in the anchor text.

WHY THIS STRATEGY WORKS: Search bots look for both internal and external backlinks that (1) include specific keywords or phrases and (2) link to the same URL. When you have reliable websites, including your own, pointing to the same URL, search bots see this as an "authority page" and will start ranking it higher in search.

HOMEWORK:

  • Figure out your first "big keyword"
  • Set up a category page and add related posts to that category. Add your new category to your blog's menu.
  • Make a plan to update posts with anchor text, linking to your new category page.
  • Set up at least one guest post for the next month.

LESSON 4: SEO FOR IMAGES

Lesson 4 starts with two simple exercises, but don't worry. There's no stretching or weight lifting involved.

Exercise #1: Think like a search bot.

Take a look at the HTML of your blog posts and try to figure out what they're reading. Better yet, do a quick Ctrl+F and type in the keyword for your post while looking at the HTML and see what happens.

SEO-in-image-description-and-alt-text.png

(Hint: In Wordpress? Change your view from "Visual" to "Text" to see the HTML.)

Exercise #2: Do a Google search for "Chocolate Chip Cookies".

As soon as you hit "enter", you not only see a list of resources for recipes, you also see images. You don't even have to switch your Google search to an image search. They are just magically there on your screen making you wish you hadn't given up sugar for Lent.

Visual_search_for_chocolate_chip_cookies.png

WHAT DOES THIS TEACH US? 

SEO doesn't only apply to the text of your blog posts and pages. Remember, those search bots are reading the code, not the words. And your images are all code, so you need to optimize them for search, as well.

Fortunately, it's not difficult to pump your images full of Google juice. It's as easy as 1, 2! (Yea, it's so easy, there is no 3.)

#1 - An Image Without A Name Serves No Purpose

Fun Fact: Image Optimization Starts Before Images Hit Your Media Library.

Before you add the first image for a blog post or page to your media library, you need to be thinking about keywords. Here's why:

When you edit your photos and save them to your computer, they have a file name associated with them. If you do not change that filename, it ends up being something that your camera assigned to it, like "DSC042.jpg" or something like that.

However, since search bots can read that, you need to be giving your images names that help improve your SEO.

For example, if you write a blog post about chocolate chip cookies, you want to give your images names like:

  • chocolate-chip-cookies-made-from-scratch 
  • 3-ingredient-chocolate-chip-cookies 
  • gluten-free-chocolate-chip-cookies

You get the idea. You don't have to give each image the same name, but you can if you'd prefer. Simply name the first image using keywords and add the number 1 at the end of the image name. Each image in the set will have the same image name with the next number in order.

BONUS: Be sure to add hyphens between each word of your image name. Search engines use hyphens to notate different words in a phrase, so hyphens in your image name help search bots read the actual keywords, rather than a bunch of words smashed together.

#2 - Don't forget the alt text.

Alt text is what appears when images fail to load properly. It's what tells readers about an image if they can't see an image. Got it?

Remember those search bots, though? They can't see the images in a blog post, but they can read them, and the alt text is yet another thing they read. The alt text is typically what pulls as the description when someone pins your post to Pinterest, too, so don't skip it!

When you select an image to add it to your post or page in Wordpress, you'll see a set of fields to the right in this order:

  • URL
  • Title 
  • Caption
  • Alt Text 
  • Description

That alt text field is where you will write a description that tells both search bots and people on Pinterest what your post is about. Be sure you're using those keywords!

BONUS: Speaking of Pinterest, in case you haven't noticed, Pinterest results show up when you do a Google search, so let's briefly talk about SEO on Pinterest, shall we?

Just like Google, Pinterest is a search engine. It just happens to be a visual search engine, but how do you find things on Pinterest? With words!

SEO Your Pinterest Profile

  • Add keywords relevant to your overall blog to your Pinterest business name and "about me" section
  • Give your boards names that make sense and include terms people actually search for
  • Give each board a description using keywords, and choose a category that best fits the content
  • And of course, give each individual pin a description that includes keywords for that specific blog post

Now go get snap happy with your new found SEO knowledge. The final lesson is all about formatting a blog post!


LESSON 5: FORMATTING A BLOG POST

You bought a 1000 piece puzzle and have all the pieces dumped out on the table. You’ve put all the edge pieces in a pile, and sorted the rest by color. Now you’re standing there wondering how to put it all together.

Congrats on making it to the final lesson of SE-OMG!! We’ve gone over SEO terminology so you have an understanding of what everything means, we’ve worked on our keywords and created category pages, we’ve starting planning guest posts to build our backlink catalog, and we now understand how search bots “see” our images.

In this final lesson, we’re going to put all those puzzle pieces together, and I’m going to share with you exactly how I format my blog posts. Now, when I brought on several contributors to Sweet Tea & Saving Grace, I taught them how to format their blog posts the same way, and here is the feedback from two of them:

testimonial.png
testimonial_2.png

Now keep in mind this is just the way I like to format my posts, and it’s been working for me. So if you’re in your little comfort zone all cozied up in your Snuggie and don’t want to do things the way I do, then feel free to disregard all of this.

Just sayin’.

Ok, let’s get started. I’ll start by giving you the steps I use to craft every single blog post I publish, then I’ll share the actual format.

#1 - Write a Good Headline

My go-to tool for writing a solid headline is CoSchedule’s free Headline Analyzer.

You are graded on your headlines, and you can see what your headline will look like in inboxes and in a Google search. I play around with different variations until I get a green headline score.

#2 - Write the Post

It may sound oversimplified, but I just write. I don’t think about SEO, I don’t add images, I don’t add backlinks. I just write the post.

This is always my (very) rough draft, but it’s an important step. I think too many bloggers obsess over the structure of their post and leave out key details to the story, so starting with the story first, you are then able to go back and clean up your post and optimize it for search.

#3 - Add Keywords

After the bones of my post have been written, I read it aloud (this is really important) and add keywords, restructuring sentences when needed to make the keywords make sense.

We’ll get back to this in a minute when I share my format so you can see exactly where I put keywords in my blog posts.

#4 - Add Images

This is pretty self-explanatory. As I’m writing my post, if I know where a specific image needs to go, I’ll simply write “INSERT IMAGE” to make it easier to add those images at this stage of the process.

#5 - Add Calls-to-Action & Related Content

I try to add calls-to-action (or CTAs) to every blog post, sometimes in the form of a click to tweet or a graphic linking to a landing page for a content upgrade.

I also write anchor text and link to 2-3 related pieces of content within each post.

#6 - Fill Out Yoast SEO Plug-in

I add my main focus keyword, write a meta description, and review the items in Yoast to try to fully optimize my post based on the suggestions provided.

#7 - Customize My URL

I always update my URL to remove any stop words like “the”, “and”, “for”, etc. I want my URL to be as short as possible while still containing my main keyword.

Where to Put Keywords:

  • Post title
  • First paragraph (in bold)
  • Image name (before uploading to media library)
  • Meta description
  • Post URL (remove stop words) 
  • H1, H2, H3 tags
  • Alt Text
  • Throughout post organically

Grab the Blog Post Outline from the worksheet section.