So, you want to boost SEO on your free WordPress blog and everyone tells you that you can’t. Good news is that they’re liars. Bad news is that they’re lying to you.
It’s true that an upgraded WordPress blog can provide stronger SEO value to your blog. But if it’s not the right time to invest in a paid WordPress account, you can still boost SEO on your free WordPress blog by applying scrappy optimization tactics.
Example A: me. I didn’t upgrade my WordPress blog for seven years. Even without the fancy plug-ins and customizable themes, I had many popular blog posts that ranked well on Google and Bing with a free WordPress account.
In fact, my blog post on writing scavenger hunt clues accrued tens of thousands of views for several years!
Ranking well on search with a free WordPress blog can be done. That is, if the right strategy is in place.
It’s Not Easy to Boost SEO on Your Free WordPress Blog
As the saying goes, there’s a reason why it’s free. There are limitations of a free WordPress blog that work against your ability to boost SEO, such as:
- No plug-ins designed to increase your blog SEO
- No access to updating blog post title tags and meta descriptions
- No control of URL structure
- No option to choose customizable themes
- No access to third-party stats, such as Google Analytics
- No say on the ads appearing on your blog (and no, you don’t earn money from it)
- No ability to remove “powered by WordPress.com” from your blog
But don’t let a no (or seven) hold you back.
How You Can Boost SEO on Your Free WordPress Blog
You can still increase your blog traffic on your free WordPress blog through basic search engine optimization tactics—free of charge. Maximize your chances of ranking higher in search engines with these SEO strategies.
Content, Content, Content
Let’s start with what you know. You opened your free WordPress account because you want to blog. And you have no problem transferring thoughts from your head into words on the digital screen.
You got this writing thing down. Which is good, because you need to do a lot of it if you want to boost SEO on your free WordPress blog.
Commit to your blog and commit to your content. Every blog post should be at least 1,600 words. Every blog post should stay focused on a central theme, so stay away from straying sidenotes. Publish a new blog post regularly, whether that’s weekly or three times a week.
Keywords Throughout Your Post
This strategy to boost SEO on your free WordPress blog usually tops the list—and it’s easy to see why. If what readers are searching for appears consistently throughout your blog post, chances are it’s relevant to what they want to read.
If you’re new to blogging, incorporating a keyword or a keyphrase means including what readers are searching for on search engines. You can showcase the keyword or keyphrase throughout your blog post, including:
- The title
- Headers and subheaders
- First sentence
- Last paragraph
- Multiple times throughout the blog post
That being said, there is such a thing as over-optimizing. Google and Bing catch on if your keyword or keyphrase appear too often in your blog post and knock you down a few pegs. And readers are wise to see when you’re stuffing your post with the same keyword or keyphrase.
Keywords in URLs
On first glance, it seems like you can’t boost SEO on your free WordPress account because you can’t adjust your URL structure. In other words, what you choose to be the title of your blog post is what you choose to appear in you blog post’s URL.
The solution is simple. Formulate your blog post title so that it features the specific keyword or keyphrase you’re targeting. Remember that long URLs don’t rank well in search—and a blog post URL is already long enough with the date info—so be tactful with your blog post title.
Select an SEO-Friendly WordPress Theme
How can a WordPress theme be SEO-friendly? Just like the words on every post can boost SEO on your free WordPress blog, so too can the words that lie beneath the surface.
A WordPress theme optimized for SEO uses a simple code base that loads quickly, scores high on Google PageSpeed Insights and applies good Schema markup.
There are a variety of free SEO-friendly WordPress themes available to you as a free user. Choose a template that both exemplifies your content and optimizes your free WordPress blog for search.
Optimize Images & Videos
While you have limited ability to refine the metadata for your blog post’s content, you are able to tidy up the metadata for your images.
If you’re new to blogging, metadata is stored information about a file—in this case, an image or video—that can be read by the search bots. And if the images within your blog post are optimized with your target keywords or keyphrases, the more likely it can boost SEO on your free WordPress blog.
This isn’t as daunting as it seems. You can optimize every image in three easy steps:
- Before loading into the Media Library, include your keyword or keyphrase in the file name
- Update the alt text field with your keyword(s) or keyphrase
- Write a brief, keyword-rich description
An internal link is a hyperlink within your blog post that links to an older blog post or another webpage on your blog. Internal linking is a great way to boost SEO on your free WordPress blog because it demonstrates to the search engines the relevancy of your content across your blog site. And when readers click on an internal link to read another post, it tells the search bots that your content is relevant and of interest to readers.
How many internal links should you include? There technically isn’t a specified limit on how many internal links to include in your blog post. When the Internet was in its younger days, there was a limit of 100 links on a webpage. With that rule out the window, you can theoretically apply hundreds of links without punishment from the SEO bots.
That being said, keep your reader in mind. Would hundreds of internal links read well on the digital screen? Or would it be bothersome and appear spammy?
Balance the number of hyperlinks with the structure and length of your blog post. A well-placed internal link is more likely to be clicked than dozens of that same link. Think quality over quantity, relevance over repetition.
Create Content Hubs
It’s not easy to maintain the hype about your blog post on your free website after its initial publish. Within a week, it drifts beneath the fold. Out of sight, out of mind.
Fortunately, WordPress makes it easy to create pages where you can showcase past content. Enter the content hub.
It’s not (yet) a technical blogging term, but it really should be. A content hub is a webpage you create to feature related blog posts.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you have seven blog posts related to potty-training puppies. You can create a content hub called Practice Advice on Potty-Training Puppies as its own webpage where all related blog posts are gathered and featured (WordPress makes it easy to create a webpage like this).
Content hubs are a great way to boost SEO on your free WordPress blog because:
- It’s another opportunity for your content to be found across search engines
- It can be easily located on your website so that readers continue to read your blog content
Why These Tactics Can Further Boost SEO on Your Free WordPress Blog
Think of optimizing your blog post like a relay. You apply as many SEO strategies as you can on your free WordPress account before handing off the baton to your readers.
That’s right—your readers can also boost your SEO value. When readers can find your blog posts and enjoy its content, they can help boost your search rankings.
- When readers click on your internal links or navigation links, this decreases your bounce rate—that is, the ratio of single-page sessions over all sessions. Search bots favor blog posts and websites where readers want to read multiple pages of content.
- When they share your blog post on social media, this increases your blog post’s exposure the likelihood of social media followers to click your linked blog post.
- When websites link back to your blog post or blog website—what bloggers call backlinking—that demonstrates the value of your content to search bots.
Most professional bloggers urge anyone serious about blogging to invest in their blog and pay for an upgraded WordPress account. There are countless opportunities to skyrocket your SEO when you have access to customizable themes, metadata and a library of WordPress plug-ins.
That being said, there are circumstances where a free WordPress blog is the best decision for you. And that’s okay. You don’t have to pay to play the SEO game. You just have to know the rules of the game so that you can have a seat at the table.