Do you know why people pay to learn anything online?
Well, it’s not because they can’t find the information they need somewhere on the internet. It’s because they don’t have the time to piece together all the puzzle pieces that will eventually form an actionable blueprint.
The internet is vast. It’s full of blog articles, forums, guides, videos, and courses, mixed up with lots of noise, misleading advice, outdated information, scams, and people yelling for attention. So, how can you make sense of all this mess?
Most of the materials you’ll find online will either be impractical or written by someone who doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.
You’ll have to do a lot of digging before you find a comprehensive guide explaining the entire process and providing step-by-step instructions on what to do.
That’s why we wanted to make everything super-easy for you, distill the exact process we use to move our clients’ website traffic from zero to over 100K into a simple, step-by-step guide that anyone can easily follow and apply.
Whether you’re a small business owner, a blogger, or someone who wants to drive more website traffic without spending money on ads, this guide is for you.
Step #1: Technical Optimization and On-page SEO
Any successful SEO initiative should begin with getting the technical stuff right.
If your website isn’t optimized for search engines, it won’t matter how many backlinks you build or how much content you produce; search engine bots won’t find, crawl and index your content, making it impossible to rank for it.
Technical optimization can be a bit technical. If you don’t have a technical background, you might want to forward it to your technical team and skip to step #2.
If you’re a non-techy and can’t afford a technical team, here’s what you should do:
- Install WP Rocket (for WordPress Users): WP Rocket is a WordPress plugin that lets you optimize a bunch of technical stuff on your website, from page speed to caching.
- Use SMUSH: SMUSH is a free tool that lets you reduce the size of your images without losing quality. The smaller the images, the faster your website will load.
- Install an SEO Plugin: We recommend Yoast SEO (for WordPress users). This plugin will let you control how search engines see your content and track any SEO mistakes you may have.
But if you’re a bit tech-savvy, read on. Otherwise, feel free to skip the rest of this section and go straight to Step 2.
Technical SEO Basics
Sitemap XML File: A good sitemap XML file should be the foundation of your technical optimization efforts. This file is basically a list of all the content on your website, including posts, pages, categories, and tags.
It’s a simple file that shows search engines how to navigate your website and find the content to index.
If your website runs on WordPress, you must install Yoast SEO or RankMath SEO plugin, which automatically generates the sitemap. Otherwise, be prepared to get your hands a little dirty and create one manually.
How to Create a Sitemap Manually and Add it to Google Search Console:
Before we go any further, we’d like to ask you to create a Google Search Console account if you haven’t done so already.
You can follow this link to create one.
Once your account is set, go to Sitemaps on the sidebar and “Add a New Sitemap.”
If you’re running your website on Shopify, you can add “/sitemap.xml” to the end of your URL (example: www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml) and click “submit.
If you have a WordPress, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce, add “sitemap_index.xml?” to the end of your URL (example: www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap_index.xml). Alternatively, install an SEO plugin such as YoastSEO or RankMath SEO and leave it at that.
If you’re on Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace, you can log in to the dashboard and navigate to SEO > Sitemaps. See if the XML sitemap is provided.
Here’s an article you might want to read to learn more about sitemaps:
Proper Website Architecture: Any page on your website should be no more than three clicks away from the homepage. You can have the homepage, menus, sub-menus, and your content. Don’t forget to link your pages and posts together for easy navigation.
Serve Image in next-gen Format: Serve images as WebP, jpeg 2000, or jpeg XR to reduce the size of your images and still keep them high quality.
If you’re using WordPress, just install SMUSH, and it will do everything for you.
Otherwise, you might have to compress them manually using a tool like Compressor.io or TinyPNG.
Get Rid of Duplicate Content: Search engines detest duplicate content and can penalize you for it. You must ensure every page is unique and that no two pages have similar content.
You can use tools like Copyscape to check for any duplicate content on your website, after which you want to delete, merge, or rewrite it.
Fix Broken Links: 404 errors are bad for SEO and can hurt your rankings.
Broken Link Checker is a great tool that lets you scan your website for any broken links and then fix them.
Create a Robots.txt File: A robots.txt file is a simple text file that tells search engine crawlers which pages to index and which ones to ignore.
For example, you don’t want search engines to index your “Thank You” page or any other page with sensitive information.
Read this article to learn more about robots.txt: How To Crawl A Website Without Getting Blocked By Robots.Txt And Other Firewalls
Optimize All Your Website Pages by Best Practice: Google has a lot of general best practices that all website owners must follow if they want to rank higher on their SERPs.
Here are some of them:
- Include meta titles and descriptions on all pages
- Write unique content for each page
- Check for any broken links
- Keep the titles of your pages short and descriptive
- Make sure all images have ALT tags
- Have an adequate # of outbound links
- Aim for fewer than 100 links per page
- Check your content for readability and grammar
- Optimize your content for keyword density
Advanced Technical SEO
Now, this is where things take a crazy turn. Be prepared to get more web-devvy and dig deep into your website’s insides.
Advanced technical SEO techniques involve optimizing all the little things that users don’t see or interact with directly but affect their website’s performance.
Here’re some of the issues we’ve had to deal with when optimizing our clients’ sites for search engines:
Not Lazy-loading Images: If your website has a lot of images, it can take a long time to load them fully. To speed things up, lazy-load the images and only load those visible on the screen.
For example, if your website has a long list of product images, only load the first few until the user scrolls down to view the rest.
How do you manually minify codes:
- To minify HTML code manually, use HTMLMinifier, a tool that will strip out all unnecessary whitespace and comments.
- To minify CSS code, use CSSNano, a tool that will remove all redundant selectors and declarations.
Use Cloudflare + Bunny CDN: While CDN (Content Delivery Network) is great, combining it with Cloudflare is even better.
Cloudflare is a DNS (Domain Name System) service that loads your website from multiple servers across the globe, reducing page loading times. It’s easy to set up; the best part is that it’s free for most websites.
For an extra layer of speed, use Bunny CDN, a caching service that offers even faster page loading times and better security.
And yes, you can simultaneously use Bunny CDN and another CDN service such as Cloudflare.
Want your SEO effort to pay off even more with every little tweak? Sort out all the issues mentioned above.
If you’re using WordPress, install WP Rocket. The tool does all the optimization work for you.
Step #2: Keyword Research
After you’ve sorted out all the technical issues on your site, the next step is to do keyword research. That will help you identify the search terms that your target audience is using, so you can better optimize your content for higher organic rankings.
To start, brainstorm all the keywords related to your business and industry. Then, use a tool like Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Ubersuggest to find more relevant long-tail keywords and phrases.
You can begin by creating a keyword research sheet. That will make it easier to track and compare different keywords.
You can use the sheet to:
- Prioritize your content
- Keep track of your publishing process
- Get a top-down view of your overall SEO strategy and web performance
Here’s what your keyword research sheet should cover:
- Target search phrases: List the exact keyword terms you’re targeting.
- Search volume: Note down the estimated search volume for each keyword.
- Competitiveness (Difficulty Score): What’s the “competition score”? Will it be hard to rank for such a term? You can find this on an SEO tool such as Ahrefs or SEMrush. The higher the difficulty score, the harder it will be for you to rank for that particular keyword.
- URL: The web page URL where it appears on your site.
- Content type: Is it a blog post, video, or product page?
- Optimized content: Any tweaks you’ve made to the content to optimize it.
- Priority: What’s the keyword priority on a scale of 1 to 3
- 1 being the top priority: Keywords with low competition, high traffic, better conversion, and high relevance to your business.
- 2 being the Average priority: Not the top-ranking keywords, but reasonable enough to target.
- 3 being the Low priority: Keywords with a high competition score and low traffic.
- Status: What’s the status of the article?
Written, not written, being written, assigned to a writer, published, not published, etc.
- Topic Clusters: What topic category does each keyword belong to?
- Rankings: Where does your content currently rank on Google for each keyword?
- CPC: What’s the Cost Per Click (CPC) for that particular keyword?
How to Do Keyword Research
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do your keyword research:
There are tons of different ways to do keyword research, but we’ll only be covering one, our favourite method.
You can begin by listing your top 5 SEO competitors, ranking on the first page of Google for your main keywords.
You can find these sites by running a simple Google search for your industry keywords and picking the top-ranking sites.
Then, head over to SEMrush and see how they’re doing their SEO by analyzing their backlinks, keywords, and organic search traffic.
Just run the sites as they’re, one by one. You’ll see which terms are driving traffic for your competitors.
That will give you an idea of what keywords and search phrases to target.
You can extra all the relevant ones and enter them into your sheet.
Run all the sites, one after the other, and take notes on the keywords and phrases you find.
Once you’re done, head to Ubersuggest or Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer tool and enter your list of keywords.
The tool will give you insights into keyword difficulty, search volume, CPC, and more!
It will also give you a list of keywords associated with each keyword you input. You can review the suggestions and extract anything relevant to add to your sheet.
At this point, you’re free to call it a day. You can proceed to the next step.
Over time, you’ll uncover more and more keywords that you can add to your list. Logging all of them in the sheet will give you a complete overview of your optimization process.
Step #3: Create SEO Landing Pages
In Step 2, we were more focused on collecting a list of relevant keywords.
Now, it’s time we created a landing page for each one of them.
A landing page is a special web page targeting a specific keyword.
These pages should be optimized for search engines, with keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions, optimized URLs, and content matching the query.
There are two ways to create these pages:
Create a General Landing Page: Create a single page on your website and optimize it for one of the keywords. Now, copy this page for other keywords and tweak it accordingly. Alter the heading, subheading, content, and other elements as needed.
You can choose this option if your target keywords are closely related.
For example, if you were targeting the keywords “brown leather shoes,” “black leather shoes,” and “red leather shoes,” you could create one landing page and tweak it for each keyword.
Create Separate Pages: This is the best option if your keywords are entirely different. Create separate web pages for each keyword and optimize them accordingly.
For example, if your software management software also doubles as an archiving tool, you can create two landing pages — one for each keyword.
After you’ve created the landing pages, you can optimize them for their respective keywords. You can begin by writing the page’s copy and running them through an SEO tool such as Surfer SEO.
If you’re using WordPress, install Yoast SEO or Rank Math SEO to help with the optimization process. Just copy-paste your content into the WordPress editor and tweak it according to the tool’s guidelines.
We suggest you add these pages to your website’s navigation or menu. That’s to make it easier for users to find and access them.
What next? Well, it’s time to start building quality links to these pages. You’ll also need to create a blog and start churning content regularly.
That’s what the next step is all about. Stay tuned!
Step #4: Create High-Quality SEO Blog Content
At this point, you should have all your landing pages set up and optimized for the search engine.
It’s time to start producing content that ranks.
Note that the keywords you created aren’t direct-intent. Google isn’t specifically looking for your products or services.
So, your content must provide users with valuable information related to those keywords. Think of it as creating informational content that answers questions and provides solutions.
For example, if you’re running a software company, you might want to produce content that answers the following questions:
- How do you find the right software for your business?
- What are the best software management tools for large businesses?
- What are the key benefits of using software archiving?
These topics will give you a good starting point. You can then brainstorm other related topics and dives deeper into each concept.
To create content that ranks well, you need to pay attention to two things specifically:
- Create a Comprehensive Content Outline
- Get the Writing Part Right
Create a Comprehensive Outline
A content outline is like a blueprint for your article. It helps you determine the structure of your content and set a clear direction for it.
Start by drafting the main sections and topics covered in your content. Then, break down each section into subsections — further exploring their details and nuances.
- Your Article Title and Description
- Your Content Headings and Sub Headings
- The Information You’ll Include in Each Section
Once you have a comprehensive outline, you can start filling in the details.
Now for the writing part.
Get the Writing Part Right
That’s where your content will come to life. You’ll need to ensure that it’s written in a way that appeals to both search engine bots and users. Write for humans first and bots second.
On that note, here are a few things to keep in mind when writing content:
- Write clearly and concisely
- Make sure your content is easy-to-read and understand
- Include relevant keywords naturally in the body text
- Add visuals, such as images and videos, to keep readers engaged
- Proofread your content for grammar and spelling mistakes
- Avoid fluff like the plague.
- Hire the right writers to help you get the job done.
- Keep your audience’s level of understanding in mind when you’re writing content. For example, if you’re writing for rocket scientists, you do not want to explain to them that 1 +1 equals two.
Once you’re done writing your content, it’s time to optimize it.
Now that your content is published, it’s time to start building links to them.
Link building actively raises your stakes in the SEO game. It helps search engines understand that your content is valuable and high-quality enough that other websites would want to link to it.
If you’re in a highly competitive niche, link building would decide how relevant and authoritative your website is.
For example, if you’re in the VPN industry, for example. You might have noticed that almost every website in the top 10 search results has high-quality content. So, unless you figure out how to build more high-quality backlinks than them, there’s no way you’re beating them in the SEO game.
By high-quality, we mean their content pieces are:
- Long-form content
- Well-formatted (to make it scannable)
- Include images, videos, etc.
- Easy to navigate
If you look at some of the top-ranking websites on Moz Toolbar or Ahrefs, you’ll notice that they have a high domain authority and many backlinks. Talking thousands of high-quality backlinks.
Companies spend upwards of millions of dollars on link-building campaigns. So, don’t be fooled into thinking you can get the same results with a few $10-15 links.
Buying backlinks isn’t an option either. Google has cracked down on link-buying schemes, and websites caught doing this are severely penalized and could even be removed from the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Link building is a slow and tedious process, but incredibly critical if you want to succeed in SEO.
Now, the million-dollar question, “how do you build high-quality backlinks?”
There are tons of link-building strategies: broken link strategy, stealing your competitors’ links, guest posting, creating infographics, etc.
But we’re not going to talk about them today because we’ve covered them exhaustively before here:
We’ll only highlight a few of our favourite strategies:
#1. Broken Link Building Strategy: There are a lot of dead pages with broken backlinks all over the web. All you need to do is find them and offer your content as a replacement.
With every new article that you publish, you can go through a list of keywords related to your content and search for pages that have broken links.
Once you’ve identified them, reach out to the website owners and ask if they’d like to replace the broken link with yours.
#2. Reverse Engineering Your Competitors’ Backlinking Strategy: You can also use tools like Ahrefs to discover which websites are linking to your competitors and replicate them for yourself. For example, if your competitor is getting a lot of backlinks from guest posts, you can reach out to the same websites and see if they’d be willing to publish a post from you as well.