The number of monthly visitors of your website doesn’t mean everything. Often it’s more important to have an active and engaged readership of 1 000 than 10 000 visitors who just come to your website to have a look at the pictures. Of course, if you invest such an amount of time in designing your website and in writing content, it’s always great to feel appreciated by more people than just your family, friends and the naturists of your local club.
Also, if you are monetizing your website with NaturistAds, the larger your audience, the more likely that someone will click on one of your banners.
There are three main ways how people arrive on your website. One is via social media. If you have a large following on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, MeWe or any other social channel, those people will follow your links and end up on your website.
The second one is via organic search. When your website appears on Google, Yahoo or Bing.
The third way is through paid advertising, like NaturistAds. By publishing ads on other people’s websites, you get them to visit yours.
In this blog post we’re going to talk about the second option: Organic search. And how you can grow the number of people finding your website via Google (or Bing, Yahoo…) via SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. As the name suggests, it’s all about optimizing your website so it can be more easily found by search engines and to make your website rank higher in the search results.
According to the latest statistics, about 92.5% of all web searches happen via Google. So in the further course of this blog post, we’ll mostly talk about Google when talking about search engines. Of course, these tactics are similar for Yahoo, Bing and other search engines as well.
Why is SEO so important?
We have some more statistics for that. When people search for something on Google, 67% will click on one of the first five results on the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). Only 5% will click through to the second page. This means that if your website ends up on place 11 of the SERP for a certain search query, it could get 5 times more visitors if it ended up on number 10. One step up on the ladder could mean a lot. If you make it to the top 5, you could get more than 10 times as much visitors for that certain query.
The advantage of SEO is that it’s pretty much completely free and that it can have a huge impact. Google gets about 63 000 searches per second. That’s about 2 trillion searches per year. Needless to say that if you manage to rank high, you’ll get a lot of traffic. The downside is that SEO is often complicated, changes often and can take a huge amount of your time if you want to do it well.
How does Google work?
To understand SEO, it’s important to first understand how Google works. The single most important purpose of Google is to show you exactly what you’re looking for.
As fast as possible.
The moment they fail doing that, you will start looking for an alternative, another search engine. The reason why Google is so popular is because they’re extremely good at doing just that. Think about it, how many times did you Google something and did you have to visit page 2 to find what you were looking for? Or did you even have to look further than the top 3 results?
Every day, the Google systems crawl millions of website pages, trying to figure out what they are about, how valuable the content is and how likely it is that it will answer certain questions. They have huge algorithms for that which are probably more secret than the Coca Cola recipe. Nobody, except maybe very few Google employees, know how these algorithms work. And they’re being updated about 300 times per year.
Professional companies are spending huge budgets on trying to figure out what the best tricks are to make the algorithms work in their favor. And most of all, to rank better than the competition. Because here’s the difficulty of SEO. If there would be only one website page per possible subject, that page would not need a great deal of SEO to rank number one. But every topic is covered on hundreds or thousands different websites. If we both write a blog post about naturism in Mexico, how can we influence Google to “think” that our post is better than yours? To put our post higher on the SERP.
Let Google know you exist
This sounds very logical, but still many forget about this first step. If Google doesn’t know that your website is there, it can’t read your pages and won’t put them in the search results.
Google finds new websites by following links. When Google reads a page which has a link to a page on your website, Google finds that page on your website as well. If your page has 5 links to other pages on your website, Google finds those pages as well. And so on.
This sounds like a very time-consuming process and it actually is, if you’re waiting for Google to find out about your website on its own. A much easier and quicker way is to just tell Google about your website and all the pages that are on there. This can be done via a sitemap. It’s a complete map with all the pages on your website which you send to Google. Google will crawl all the pages and gets a complete index of your website.
You don’t have to do this yourself. WordPress has some great plugins like Google XML Sitemaps which creates such a sitemap and sends it automatically to Google (and Bing).
You can easily check whether your website (and all your pages) have been indexed by Google via the Google Search Console.
Keywords are a very important part of SEO. That’s what people are searching for on Google. Those can be short-tail keywords like “naturism in Mexico” or long-tail like “what are the best naturist resorts in Mexico”. With the uprise of voice search, long-tail keywords are becoming more and more important.
The basics are simple. If the term “naturism in Mexico” does not appear on your page, you will not be in the search results. Basta. But if it does appear on your page, what makes you rank number one or five or fifty-five on the SERP?
Less then a decade ago, it was easy to trick Google via keywords. You just put the words “naturism in Mexico” a couple of dozens of times on a page and Google would definitely think that your page is the number one resource for this topic. Today, Google has gotten much smarter in determining the value of your keywords.
Location ranking of keywords
In the case you didn’t already realize this, Google doesn’t have millions of minions reading every single page on the world wide web. Instead, it has millions of “crawlers” reading the HTML code of your pages. A basic understanding of HTML code will help you a lot in determining the perfect place for your keywords.
The rank of importance is something like this:
3. First paragraph
If a certain keyword (or key phrase) is in the title and/or the URL of your page, it’s quite likely that this page will be about that subject. You’re not going to write a blog post about naturism in Mexico and then give it the title “peanut butter and jam sandwiches” right?
Well… Actually that’s still what lots of bloggers do. They see their content as literary works and try to write it like a novel. This could well be an excellent blog post about naturism in Mexico, where the title refers to how you loved eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches on the nude beach. Unfortunately, which such a title you’ll never rank high on Google for the search term “naturism in Mexico” (nor for “peanut butter and jam sandwiches”).
Page titles in HTML are recognised by the H1 tag. WordPress does this automatically, in other web design platforms you may need to check this. The next important part is the section titles, which come in H2, H3, H4… tags. It’s very important to make use of these. Keywords in a title within H2 tags will have much more importance than those in titles that are just put in bold. The latter is just seen as in-text keywords.
With in-text keywords there’s still a difference in where they appear. SEO professionals don’t always agree on what’s the best place for your keywords, but it’s often understood that keywords in the first paragraph (the introduction) get more value than those further down.
It’s quite logical. If you mention “nude beaches in Mexico” in your introduction it’s quite possible that an important part of this page will be about nude beaches in Mexico. If it appears further down, the page might well be about all beaches in Mexico, listing a couple of nude beaches as well.
Also the context of your keywords plays a big role in this. Up to even the whole paragraph. If you write a paragraph about how you prepared your peanut butter and jam sandwich, ending with “…and then I ate it on a nude beach in Mexico”, your “nude beach in Mexico” keywords will receive much less value than if the whole paragraph would be about that beach.
Keywords in meta descriptions
The previously mentioned places for keywords are all within your text. Whether it’s in the titles, subtitles, the introduction or anywhere else on your page, those who visit the page will actually see the keywords standing there. But HTML also uses meta tags.
These are parts of the HTML code which won’t be seen by the reader but which can be interpreted by the Google Crawlers.
To change the meta descriptions of your page or your website in general in WordPress, it’s best to use a plugin like Yoast SEO.
Internally linked keywords
Another way to tell Google what a certain page is about is by linking to it from another page. If you have a general overview of naturism in Mexico and then another blog post with detailed info about the nude beaches in Mexico, you can link from the general post to the nude beaches post. Here it’s important to link on the right keywords.
Many bloggers do something like this: “Read more about nude beaches in Mexico in this blog post“.
This doesn’t tell Google much. It’s much better to have something like: “Read more about nude beaches in Mexico“. Here you specifically tell Google that the link will go to a page about nude beaches in Mexico.
Externally linked keywords
Much more valuable than internally linked keywords are links you receive from other websites. If we write the line “Read more about nude beaches in Mexico” and the links refer to your website, this means to Google that we believe that your page is a reference when it comes to nude beaches in Mexico. The more other websites link to your page with those keywords, the more status your page will get. At least when it comes to Mexican nude beaches.
The difficulty with backlinks, as these external links are called, is that it’s an aspect of SEO which you can’t completely do yourself. You need to find other website owners who are willing to link to your page, on exactly those keywords. The only possible way is to ask them.
There are a couple of ways to do so.
1. Ask to publish your guest post. If you write a compelling blog post that can create added value to the other person’s website, they might want to publish it. In your guest post, you can create backlinks to your own website on certain keywords.
2. Write better content than the current links. If you notice that website A has a link to website B on the keywords “nude beaches in Mexico”, you can write a blog post which is much better, funnier, more informative or more complete than the one currently linked. And then advise the owner of website A to change the link to your page.
3. Advise website owners to update dead links. If you want a certain website to link back to yours, you could search for dead links (links going to non-existing websites) on their site. There are tools for this, such as Broken Link Checker. Then you could advise the owner to update their broken links with links to your page.
4. Buy links. Technically this is against the Google Guidelines and if they find out they can penalize both your website as the one you paid to link back to you. But it happens often. If your website gains more popularity, lots of shady and less shady companies will contact you to buy backlinks or paid guest posts on your site.
Pick your keywords carefully
As a naturist blogger, you might think that keywords are easy. You pick “naturism” and “naturist”. Maybe also “nudism” and “nudist”. And maybe even “clothing optional”.
Google gets about 370 000 searches per month on the word “nudism” in the USA alone. If all those people end up on your website, you’ll get quite a decent audience. But because “nudism” is such a generic keyword which appears on millions of websites, it’s extremely difficult to rank for.
If people in the USA Google “nudism”, the first result they’ll find is one of the world’s leading porn websites (which says a lot about people Googling just “nudism”). Wikipedia, which is seen as the biggest reference for pretty much everything, doesn’t appear until place 7. Long story short, it’ll cost you huge bags of dollars in SEO consultancy and paid backlinks to even make it to page one.
You can use tools like UberSuggest to figure out which keywords are more easy to rank for and adjust your content to those. Have a look at longer tail keywords as well. Your chances to rank for “nudism in Mexico” are much higher. Or “nudism in Zipolite in Mexico” or “the best nudist resorts in the Mexican Riviera Maya”.
Write great content
Another thing in which the Google systems have improved tremendously is in recognizing great content. The Google crawlers still aren’t much more than pieces of software, but what they can see is impressive. They almost act like humans. Sometimes even like super-humans.
It’s been proven that websites with little to no spelling and grammar errors rank better than websites with many spelling and grammar errors. Google crawlers know that text which is nicely divided in paragraphs is much more easy to read than full text. They also know that sentences with more than 20 words become difficult to read and that sentences which are mainly written in the past tense might not contain accurate information.
Google wants the searchers to receive the best and most complete information available. Therefore long blog posts often score better than short ones. Although that’s not always the case.
If we both write that blog post about nudism in Mexico and our post contains 1 500 words while yours contains only 500 words, Google will most likely think that our post is more complete. On the other hand, if the post was about how to open a water bottle, Google will know that 500 words will be more than enough and that our 1 500 word post probably contains a lot of nonsense which has no added value to someone trying to open a bottle.
The WordPress plugin Yoast SEO also analyses your content and gives some excellent tips on how to improve the structure of your sentences and paragraphs. This in combination with a browser plugin like Grammarly might help a lot with improving your content.
We’ve mentioned it a couple of times before, Google really wants to give you the very best result for your search. This can be seen from different angles. Of course, it has to be about the subject you’re searching for, but it also has to be easily readable and complete. And preferably you don’t want to wait 35 seconds before the page loads. This is why also page and website speed are important for your SEO. Because user experience is important to Google, they don’t like slow websites.
This starts with the hosting provider. Today you can buy webspace and a domain for as little as 1 euro per month. Other providers will ask 100 euros for the same amount of space and the same domain name. This doesn’t mean that the others are rip-offs.
Without going into too much detail, it’s important to know that there are different types of website hosting. The very cheap ones put all websites on one and the same server and are infamous for overloading the server so it goes slower than it should. The very expensive providers will provide a dedicated server and resources for your website only.
Which hosting you choose is very dependent on your budget and there are other ways to speed up your website. Some very good WordPress plugins include:
- Smush: Makes the pictures on your site more compact so they load faster
- A3 LazyLoad: First loads the whole page and then gradually the pictures.
- WP Super Cache: Increases your page speed by caching several components
- Merge + Minify + Refresh: Makes slow loading code more compact
- PageSpeed Ninja: contains lots of settings that increase your website speed.
There are plenty of other WordPress plugins available that increase your website speed or certain parts of it.
Time on site
The more time people spend on your page, the higher the chance that they found what they were looking for. If we rank number one on the SERP for “nude beaches in Mexico” and you rank number 2, but people only spend 30 seconds on our page before returning to Google and then spend 3 minutes on your page, it won’t take long for Google to realize that your content might be better than ours and that we’ll switch places.
Most reasons why people stay longer on a certain page have already been mentioned. The most important one is that they did find what they were looking for, but also that they had a good experience. That your text is easily readable, that your website is fast, and so on.
As with most other SEO techniques, also the time someone spends on your page can be influenced. A great way to do so is by including YouTube videos. If your page has a 3-minute video embedded in the content and the average visitor watches one-third of that video, this means that people stay one minute longer on your page than they would without the video.
Other techniques to increase the time spent on your website is by providing links to related content, by adding infographics and by engaging people to write comments.
Does every page on your site need SEO?
No, they don’t.
Before you start rewriting all your blog posts so Google ranks them higher, it’s important to think about the added value that they might bring to the searcher.
For example, a story about how you had a wonderful day on a nude beach will be fun to read by your friends and family, your regular blog readers and probably even your social media followers. But someone who searches for more information about that nude beach will not be interested in how you spend your day there. They want to know how to get there, when is the best time to visit, if there’s a parking space and toilets and a bar. If you don’t provide this info, there’s no use in trying to rank for it.
Much better is to focus on pages that do provide a lot of information about a certain subject and improve the SEO on those.
Will SEO influence your writing style?
This is a question many bloggers have, especially starting ones. You’re used to writing titles like “peanut butter and jam sandwiches” while the blog post is actually about a Mexican nude beach. You love your Jack Kerouac writing style without paragraphs or even punctuation marks.
It gives your blog character.
It’s your style.
The answer is yes.
SEO will influence your writing style. If you want to rank on Google, you have to play by Google’s terms. Once you start implementing SEO, you will find yourself writing titles like “10 tips for visiting Zipolite nude beach” instead of “peanut butter and jam sandwiches”. And your sentences might look more like they come from a children’s book than from an award-winning novel.
It’s up to you to make that choice. If you don’t want to change a thing about the way you’re writing, it doesn’t make any sense to invest any time in SEO. But if you want your audience to grow or if you want to monetize your website, at least some basic SEO is a must.
Although this is quite a long blog post, we’ve only roughly covered the different aspects of SEO. It’s much more than this. SEO might be free money-wise, it definitely takes a huge amount of time to learn and to implement. Nevertheless, we’re sure that if you aren’t using SEO tactics today and you implement some of the tips in this blog post, you can probably double or triple your current audience.
If you like more information about SEO or you want to learn more in-depth about certain aspects of SEO, get in touch with us.