Continued from the previous page
Does the length of my articles matter for ranking?
In short, yes.
That doesn’t mean write longer, mediocre articles. But if you have 2 articles on the same topic and both are well written, if one is significantly longer, it will most likely rank better.
Why would a longer post rank better?
Because it likely goes more in-depth on the topic and answers more of the related questions that the searcher may have.
How long should my posts be?
That answer will vary. But I personally never write anything under 1,200 words and over 2,000 is my average. This post, however, is my longest post and it’s well over 7,000 words.
Backlinko did a study of blog post length and ranking.
They found that, on average, the posts that ranked the best were an average of 1,890 words. Thus, the days from a decade ago of writing posts that were 200-600 words are DEAD.
Personally, I don’t think ANY blog post should be under 1,000 words. But to gauge how long your blog posts should be look at the posts already ranking for the search phrase you are targeting.
Then make your post about 20-50% longer. Use the free Chrome browser extension Word Counter Plus to quickly and easily calculate word counts on posts (linked below).
The sad and painful truth about blogging
When I started my blog I envisioned people coming to my site intentionally, week after week, because they loved my content.
I thought if I built my brand, I would develop loyal followers who read each post every time I put out a new one. Then I just thought my followers would grow exponentially week over week.
What I’ve learned is that unless you are Dr. Oz or Tony Robbins, most people are just Googling for solutions to problems. If my post happens to come up on page 1 of Google, some of those searchers may read some or all of my post.
They may not have ever seen any of my other posts and they may never see another after that.
Thus it’s crucial that each of my posts is optimized for SEO so that people can actually find my posts. They are all individual stand-alone answers to problems and not part of some giant wealth of knowledge that would generate me raving fans.
Why you shouldn’t just write about things you like
As I mentioned above, your blog probably will not get to a level where people are searching for your brand or following and reading every post you write.
Thus, it’s even OK to write new posts on adjacent keyword phrases from time to time as most people are never going to see the earlier one. This is especially true if your topic changes year to year or needs frequent updating.
But you SHOULD internally link from one of your related posts to the other.
OK, so maybe someday I’ll be a household name, but for now, I have to realize that each post needs to be one that draws searchers. And then collectively I’ll get many thousands of visitors each month, all searching for different solutions to different problems.
I was having this very conversation the other day with my friend Mike of NinjaBudgeter. I actually recommended that same DIY SEO tools to him as well.
He was saying how he likes to “just write and do my best to make it sound natural and appealing to read.” He went on to say “Google doesn’t read my content, people do.”
I sympathize with him, and in my early days, I used to write posts like that too. I thought “surely if I just write great posts and share them on social media, eventually, I’ll build a nice following.
For me, at least, I did not find that strategy worked very well.
While I get what Mike’s saying, at the end of the day if we want people to read our posts we really only have 3 options:
- Pay for advertising via Facebook ads or boosting posts, Google Adwords, or other paid advertising
- Use DIY SEO tools and naturally get good organic traffic
- Use Pinterest to generate mostly free traffic (in my experience, by far the best of all so-called social media channels for blogging)
What are the different types of DIY SEO tools & techniques?
So finding relevant keyword phrases that people are searching for which have low competition is only the beginning of SEO.
In addition, it’s also important to:
- Have a compelling meta description (the little except that appears below the title in search engines when you search)
- Use your keyword(s) naturally throughout your post and/or site (anywhere from 6-15 times depending on how long your post is)
- Make sure your keywords aren’t over-used (or used in a way that is obvious; what’s called keyword stuffing)
- Have links to your site from other reputable sites (what’s known as backlinks)
- Links from your site to other well-known sites if they are relevant to your site or post
- Have links to other posts and pages on your site (what’s called internal linking) so they stay on your site longer
- Check your Domain Authority periodically (a scale of 0-100). The higher the number the more likely Google will reward you with higher rankings
How do I do SEO for my website?
The first thing I would recommend if you have a WordPress website is to get the Yoast SEO plugin.
They make a paid version, but I think the free version works just fine.
This is one of the top DIY SEO tools out there. This plugin makes it incredibly easy to enter your meta description, keyword phrase, SEO title and more.
It also tells you if you’ve used your keyword phrase enough times on your page or post. But don’t go crazy stuffing your keywords everywhere and don’t make it sound unnatural. It’s also OK to use similar but different phrases to make it flow better.
Google is smart these days and can figure out what you’re writing about and what question(s) your post answers.
If your targeted long-tail keyword phrase is “best low-cost dry dog food for chihuahuas” your post is going to sound very unnatural if you have that exact phrase in there 15 times or more.
In 2007 it worked to just stuff your phrase in a bunch of times, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, Google will know it’s a duck. Write great posts that answer questions to people’s problems and you should do great!
Yoast also gives you readability suggestions; the easier your post is to read, the longer people stay on your page.
The longer they stay on your site, the more Google sees you as an authority.
Then I look for the sweet spot in my keyword phrase that I mentioned above. I don’t guest post a lot, but I am a contributor on Lifehack and at this point, I do have hundreds of people who link to me.
The more well-known sites that link to me, the more my credibility (and thus rankings) go up.
Baby Got Backlinks?
Backlinks are when other websites link to yours
To get backlinks from other sites, one of the best strategies is to find other sites that complement yours.
Rather than seeing them as competition, see them as a partner.
Begin to share their content on your social channels (make sure to tag them in it). It’s important to build a relationship and not just ask someone for a link. Also, make sure you are linking to others in your posts as this may naturally encourage some to link back to you.
Naturally, over time, people will link to your content because they like it and see it as a great resource.
Are backlinks important to getting good Google rankings?
In short, maybe.
If you were blogging in 2009, the answer would have been yes, absolutely! Even in 2015, the answer was probably yes. Back then, Google used the number of backlinks to your site and posts as a way to gauge how good your content was.
The theory was if site A had 5 backlinks and site B had 500, then site B must be better!
In reality, of course, Site B may not have been better at all. In fact, the only thing they were probably better as was link building.
Today, though, Google is pretty smart, both about backlinks and figuring out who’s content is better. Thus, 500 backlinks you paid for on some spammy website from sites no one has ever heard is going to hurt more than it helps.
I have a backlink from the Washington Post. But I didn’t pay for it; I just provided one of their writers some useful info and they linked to me.
That kind of backlink definitely helps your rankings. So choose how or even if you do backlinking carefully. Don’t buy links and don’t try and game the system.
As Google gets smarter, those that have tried to outsmart them will inevitably fail. Also know that with backlinks, quality matters; not quantity.
Do link building content networks work?
In short yes, for now.
Blogging link building content services are companies you hire (Fat Joe, Love to Link, The Hoth, just to name 3). You pay them money. They get someone to write a short-ish guest post that links to you and then they find a blog that they pay to publish it.
In short, you are paying for backlinks.
But because it’s in a (hopefully) relevant article on a (hopefully) good website, the theory is, it stays white or at least gray hat in the eyes of Google. For now, if you absolutely felt you had to pay for backlinks this is the only thing I would consider.
BUT, I don’t think it’s necessary to rank, and eventually, Google will figure out this strategy too and it could eventually hurt you.
I also think that more and more, Google is moving away from seeing backlinks as important. Someday they probably won’t pay ANY attention to backlinks in terms of where they put you in the rankings.
Guest posting to get backlinks
You can get backlinks by doing what’s called guest posting on other people’s sites.
To be fair, while Google doesn’t mind if you guest post, they don’t technically want you doing it just for a link.
If you are a parent blogger, find other parenting blogs and see if they will let you write a blog post for them. In the small bio section of that post, you can typically link to your site.
Check out GuestPostTracker for an up-to-date list of all sites that accept guest posts, sorted by category.
While Guest Post Tracker does show you the site names for free that allow guest posts, if you want to dig in further through their site you’ll have to pay.
So the best DIY SEO tools suggestion here is to simply see the names that seem appealing and Google their name plus “guest post” separately and submit via that route.
The HARO Strategy to get backlinks (the one I use)
Lastly, one free strategy that has gotten me a link from the Washington Post is to follow the H.A.R.O. Strategy that Brandon Gaille recommends.
H.A.R.O. stands for Help a Reporter Out.
It’s a website that’s free to join that gets dozens of requests sent to your inbox each day from reporters looking for experts in many different areas. Just specify the areas of interest and watch the requests for your input just roll in!
The is the strongest DIY SEO tools to get backlinks to your site and I’m here to tell you it works.
Do make sure to respond quickly if you see one that works for you; ideally within 10 minutes. If your response is credible and the first to come in, chances are the reporter will use it. Also know that, at least for me, I have to submit about 10 requests to get 1 link.
Bear in mind they aren’t obligated to link to you, and I did spend a large amount of time once working with a reporter who ended up using my quotes but not linking to me. But most of the time they have.
Social outreach for SEO
Many experts and bloggers use and recommend reaching out to existing websites for backlinks.
To be clear, I don’t use this tactic and I ignore them when others use it on me.
Thus, as your site grows in domain authority, don’t be surprised if you start to get bombarded with emails essentially asking you to link to them.
Many use email templates (very annoying) so you’ll get dozens of emails from unrelated people all with the same subject line (“Love your content!” or a variety of words and then “(and a proposal)” ending the subject line.
These days I don’t even open those emails.
In short, the people who use these tactics are probably hiring someone on Fivrr to do the outreach and they’ll be lucky to get 1 or 2 yesses for every 100 emails they send out.
In short, it’s a little spammy and they are essentially asking for a favor without offering much in return. And no, sharing me to their 10,000 Twitter followers isn’t a good return on the investment of my time.
What is the Keyword Golden Ratio?
You may have heard the term keyword golden ratio.
It was developed by Doug Cunnington of Niche Site Project, who has a great podcast and YouTube channel you should check out. It is essentially a simple formula you can use to, in theory, rank well within 30 days.
I can tell you having used this formula that while not fool-proof, it does help.
Let’s examine exactly what the keyword golden ratio is so you can give it a try and see if it works for you. Like everything else I’ve mentioned, it’s another of the outstanding DIY SEO tools you can use for free to boost your rankings.
How to use the Keyword Golden Ratio
First, instead of just searching for your keyword phrase on Google, do an all-in-title search. This will only show you results that have that exact phrase in the title. You do that by cutting and pasting this into your search bar: “allintitle:” (without quotes).
Your targeted phrase goes right after the colon (:).
If you have used the Keywords Everywhere browser extension I recommended (the most important of these DIY SEO tools), then you already know how many people are (theoretically) searching for your phrase.
For the purpose of the keyword golden ratio, you want the number of active monthly searches to be 250 or less.
Once you know how many monthly searches a phrase gets and how many all-in-title results come up for it, you have everything you need.
Simply divide the number of posts that come up with the monthly search volume. If the result you get is .25 or lower, you have found a good phrase. But, if it’s a little higher, I might consider it if you have domain authority over 20 and the top ranking results have domain authority under 50.
However, if the result you get is significantly higher than .25 I would steer clear.
Generally speaking, you want the number of posts that come up in an all-in-title search to be under 100 and most of the ones I target have fewer than 10 all-in-title search results.
The biggest downside of the KGR method is relying on sometimes inaccurate search volume estimates from the SEO tools (none of which are wholly accurate).
But I have had some decent rankings using it.
How to use Google Analytics to track your rankings and traffic sources
If you aren’t using Google Analytics, how do you know if your site is successful?
Google Analytics is free while not exactly one of the DIY SEO tools, it is indispensable in tracking whether your SEO tactics are working. In short, for bloggers especially, it’s a must to check your stats at least monthly, if not weekly.
With blogging, or trying to rank a website you are trying to get to a specific place (the top ranking spot).
Like any other destination, you have to have a roadmap to get where you want to go, otherwise, you just wander around. Sure you might accidentally get where you wanted to go, but you’re leaving a lot to chance.
Start by going to the Google Analytics website. Login or create an account if you don’t have one.
You can get lost among all the options (and when we get overwhelmed we often give up), so for now, I just want you to focus on a few key things and you’ll see them in the menu on the left:
Click on the word audience and drop-down menu will appear of a lot of options. I want you to eventually explore, but for now, click overview.
Towards the top right, you’ll see a calendar and date range. I like to set it either for the current month (day 1 through yesterday) or I might be trying to compare last month. In some cases maybe I want to look at a quarter (3 months) or the year-to-date. But for now, select the current month.
This graphic shows you where I’m clicking.
As you can see, month-to-date for October 2018, I have 10,337 users (people).
Those people have come to the website 11,419 times (so obviously a few repeat visitors and looked at 13,394 pages or posts on my site. Those are small numbers for some, but not bad a for a 2-year-old site that is mostly not paying for ads.
The other takeaway you can see in the graphic circle is exactly how many repeats vs new visitors I have. Each month, I almost always get mostly new visitors.
Generally speaking, my traffic increases at least 10% each month and some months the increase has been as high as 40%. If your traffic is flat or going down, that’s a clear indication of a problem, so use my DIY SEO tools to help propel your rankings forward!
Next click on acquisition, then all traffic and then channels. This tells you exactly where people are coming from when they find your site.
As you can see, the vast majority of my traffic for October (as it is every month) is from organic Google search.
Social lumps together all social media channels but like any text in blue, you can click it to see the breakdown. I love to see exactly what’s driving my success so I can do more of what’s really moving the needle and less of what isn’t.
For example, I used to spend a lot of time on Twitter.
But no matter how often I posted, what type of content I posted or how many followers I had, I rarely got more than 30 visits a month to my site from Twitter. So now, I keep my tweets to a bare minimum and focus most of my time on Pinterest which is the largest social media driver to my site.
Is bounce rate important?
The other takeaway from my Google Analytics is that while Google organic search is the #1 traffic source, it’s also my highest bounce rate.
Bounce rate is a percentage of how quickly someone bounces away from your site after going to it, so you want that number to be low.
It’s impossible to say what number is a good number as every site, niche and audience is different, but lower is better and being in the 90% range for that source means I have some work to do.
Essentially a high bounce rate means you aren’t providing the solution people were looking for. The higher the bounce rate compared to your competitors, the lower in the rankings you will slip to.
Next click on Behavior, then site content, then all pages.
This shows you your top ranking pages and posts for the date range you selected.
Here you can see my #1 ranking post, as it always is, is on window repair (ironically a guest post).
You want to know what posts are getting you the most traffic so you can do more of that style or topic. Other things to look for here are time on page.
Personally, I like this metric more than bounce rate. It shows you, on average, how much time people spend on that page or post.
Now if your site answers the question “what is 2+2”, obviously once people see the answer is 4, they will leave.
Hence, what I said earlier about the bounce rate varying a lot by niche.
But for a blog where most posts are 2000 or more words, if I see a lot of time on pages under 1 minute, that tells me I need to write better posts.
So I hope you enjoyed this somewhat brief look into the basics of Google Analytics. Trust me, it’s your best friend when you’re using my other DIY SEO tools and tips.
So what are my . . .
11 Free DIY SEO Tools and Tips That Will Work for You in 2019?
1. GET THE YOAST PLUGIN FOR WORDPRESS
Yoast is the #1 WordPress plugin for doing SEO.
If you only can pick 1 of the DIY SEO tools, this should be the one. Quickly and easily see where you need to improve your post for both SEO and readability.
Don’t, however, just blindly follow it and stuff your keywords in across the post in unnatural ways. Ultimately you should write with the end user in mind and not some arbitrary keyword density percentage a tool gives you.
Help people the best and you will rank well.
2. GET THE FREE BROWSER EXTENSION CALLED KEYWORDS EVERYWHERE
This free tool quickly and easily shows you how many average monthly searches any keyword phrase is getting. This is the quickest and easiest way to make sure people are actively searching for your topic.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, NO tool accurately provides these numbers. Thus, why pay for one? Use it as a guide and then follow your gut and your intuition.
3. GET THE MOZ BAR BROWSER EXTENTION
It’s crucial to know if the top ranking sites for your targeted keyword phrase are sites like yours or high authority sites. It won’t always be as obvious as an Oprah.com so this free browser extension shows you quickly and easily what a sites domain authority is.
If all the results on page 1 are significantly higher than your domain authority, I’d consider changing my targeted keyword phrase.
4. GET THE FREE BROWSER EXTENSION FROM GRAMMARLY
Technically this is more for content editing than another of the true DIY SEO tools. But if your content has a lot of bad grammar and misspellings, people will be bouncing from your page quickly and your rankings will drop.
Available for Chrome, Safari or Firefox.
5. GET THE TUBE BUDDY BROWSER EXTENSION
This does the same thing for YouTube that Keywords Everywhere does for Google search.
Thus if you are (or will be) trying to do videos and want to target the best keyword phrases on YouTube (not always the same as Google search), this free tool is essential.
6. GET THE WORD COUNTER PLUS BROWSER EXTENSION
Another of the tips that while not exactly one of the DIY SEO tools directly, is essential.
After all, if you are trying to outrank other posts and you want to make sure your post is more comprehensive, the best place to start is by making your post longer.
Sure you could cut and paste their text into Microsoft Word and use the word count feature, but this free Chrome extension makes it easy to highlight their text on the page and then simply right click to see the word count.
When I do this, my goal is for my post to be 20% longer than the top ranking posts. Thus, if those posts are 1,800 words, I would make mine a minimum of 2,160.
7. GET A MOBILE-RESPONSIVE THEME
With well over 50% of viewers looking at websites on a mobile device these days you simply can’t have a website that isn’t mobile responsive. If your site is on WordPress (and it should be), then chances are your theme is mobile-responsive.
Not sure? Just look at your site on your phone. If it’s not, check out the amazing free (and some paid) themes at aThemes. That’s who I use for my site.
8. HAVE A CLEAR KEYWORD GOAL FOR EVERY POST AND PAGE ON YOUR SITE
Every time you sit and write a blog post, you should have a goal in mind for a keyword or keyword phrase. Ultimately, by goal, I mean what problem are you solving that people want solutions for?
I pick my topic first. Then I find a great (usually longtail) keyword phrase next. Then I craft my post title around that. After that, I do a post outline. Then I write my content.
Do that every time, finding that sweet spot we talked about above of balancing keywords people are searching for with a relatively low number of competing pages and eventually you will begin to rank relatively well. Follow some of my other tips and as your site grows you may find yourself ranking #1!
If you’re a local business and not a blogger you will naturally have less content and you won’t be regularly adding to it. Just make sure you have a few pages or posts that describe your business in detail and that your brand and keyword(s) naturally appear throughout the pages and posts.
Going back to my brother-in-law’s site that I used as an example earlier, he could benefit greatly from having 1 page about the benefits of window tint. Another about the temperature and heat differences on a hot summer day. Maybe another about the color options and legality in our state.
Lastly, since I know he also tints homes and offices, it would be great to talk about that too. He would have pictures (all of which would be tagged with his keyword phrase) on all those pages too. And his keyword phrase would naturally be mentioned throughout all those pages.
(again, I updated his website in May 2018 to add those things and more)
9. MAKE SURE PEOPLE ARE ACTIVELY SEARCHING FOR THOSE KEYWORDS
Using the KeywordsEverywhere tool, make sure that people are actively searching for what you want to write about.
As I mentioned above, NO keyword tool accurately shows real search volume. Only Google knows that and they aren’t sharing it with these 3rd party tools. They are guesses.
So use it as a guide; not the be-all-end-all.
But, the best post in the world won’t mean a thing if no one reads it. If you choose a topic no one searches for, then you can only use paid traffic to advertise your site.
Let me be clear; paying for Google ads, Facebook for ads or boosting posts unless you are ultimately driving people to a sale is a waste of money. Don’t spend money to simply get traffic to your site to read your content and not buy anything.
This is one of the most important DIY SEO tools.
10. MAKE SURE THE NUMBER OF COMPETING PAGES FOR THOSE KEYWORDS ARE LOW
10,000 average monthly searches mean nothing if you can’t get above page 8 (been there, done that).
So make sure to pick a keyword phrase with a low number of competing pages; ideally well under 1,000,000. As your blog and domain authority grows you can grow that number too. But be the big fish in a little pond as opposed to the other way around.
If your blog’s domain authority is under 20, I would target phrases that have well under 500,000 existing posts.
11. DO AN ANNUAL CONTENT AUDIT OF OLDER POSTS
I routinely go back and tweak my older posts; maybe too much.
But at least once a year go back and look at your older posts. See how they rank. Make sure external links still work. Maybe sure any embedded Tweets or videos still work. Re-verify the number of searches your keyword phrase is still getting and how much competition there is.
If they aren’t on pages 1-4 when you search, I would completely re-write them (and maybe target a different and less competitive keyword phrase.
If you are on page 1-4 but not in the top 3 spots on page 1 I would do some minor re-writes and maybe change the title and/or meta-description. Also, look at the top ranking posts and see if you can make yours better, more up-to-date, and longer.
One trick that I (again) learned from Brandon Gaille is to use the “people also ask” topics that show up on many Google search pages as sub-headings in my post. That goes a long way in showing Google that your post is truly an authority on the subject and the sub-sets of that subject.
Before I close out this post, aside from checking out some of the folks I link to above, I also want to recommend one of the top-rated DIY SEO tools books on Amazon, SEO Fitness Workbook: 2018 Edition.
In this up-to-date book, author Jason McDonald walks you through “The Seven Steps to Search Engine Optimization Success on Google”.
It has well over 500 reviews and ranks 5 stars, so check it out if you want to dive in deeper!
Have you struggled to find DYI SEO tools that work?
In this post, we broke down the sometimes confusing world of SEO.
We talked about what it is, some of the paid tools out there and the crucial differences between black hat and white hat techniques that some bloggers use to drive rankings up.
I also walked you through a real-world example of a site that wasn’t ranking well and what to do to fix it.
Specifically, we looked at the very best free DIY SEO tools and tips available to bloggers and small business owners to make your pages and posts show up higher in Google rankings. That will naturally drive more and more people to your website each and every day and can take your site from floundering to awesome!
Are you still struggling? Are you confused? How can I help?
Feel free to comment here or email me with any questions!