5 Tips for Optimizing Blog Posts for SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) leaves many marketers and business owners feel daunted. However, there are many simple ways you can optimize your blog posts for SEO that you may not even know about! With these 5 tips, you can get started with optimizing your blog posts immediately, so your beautiful content is getting the visibility that it deserves.
When I decided to dive into my own business I knew a few things for sure... One was that I wanted to have the opportunity to apply my Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge to my own site. Another was that I didn't have a lot of budget to play with in terms of ads.
While ads are great for certain purposes, there's a lot to be said for developing your own authority organically... and the most effective way of doing that is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
First things first... what is Organic Traffic and why is it so important?
The Skinny on Organic Traffic
Organic traffic is essentially traffic that is arriving to your site without any paid component. Site visitors that are classified as Organic have arrived at your site via a search engine, and not from another site or from an ad. This also means they did not arrive at your site from a 'referral' or from 'social media.'
Not sure the breakdown of your traffic? Google Analytics makes it very easy for you to see this. Simply navigate to the Acquisition tab to learn more about the breakdown of your traffic.
While your marketing strategy should emphasize and plan for each form of traffic, here we're going to focus on Organic.
Why is Organic Traffic so important? The bottom line (beyond the beautiful budget factor) is that organic search results encompass a much larger area of a search results page, and are more engaged with, than paid content. In fact, a stat from Moz states that SEO has an almost 20x greater traffic opportunity than PPC! What do I mean by that? While the first 2-3 results on the search page will be ads, the featured snippet and the rest of the results will be what ranks highest organically. Thus, the majority of that search results page is emphasizing organic results that best match the query. By properly performing SEO on your website and blog posts, you can begin to target and rank for these queries.
Need to wrap your head around SEO a bit more? I recommend checking out the additional resources I've linked to at the bottom of this post.
Why Optimize My Blog for SEO?
Now, you may be wondering what all this has to do with your blog! Everything! One of my favourite SEO analogies is to think of Google and it's crawlers (that they deploy to analyze and catalogue your content) as a machine and your content is the food for that machine. Providing thoughtful, SEO-optimized, valuable content is one of the greatest ways to get your rankings going. However, there's a process... which is why I'm here! In this post, I'll provide you with some of the top ways you can ensure your blog posts are SEO-optimized.
So here we go... let's dive into those tips for making your blog posts SEO-friendly!
1. Determine Your Content's Purpose and Audience
Google is smart. Scary smart. Long gone are the days when you could simply publish a piece of content of your choice, stuff in some keywords, rank well and call it a day. Google is so sophisticated that it now crawls based on the intent of the searcher, not simply the keywords that the searcher uses in their query. When Google serves content back to the searcher, they are looking for the content that is going to provide the most value to the searcher. This is the shift I want you to start thinking about... Value to the user.
Content should not be written for the search engine. Content should be written for your end-user; your audience. Remember this: Write for your audience, then optimize for the search engine later.
The best way to write to your audience is to find out what they are curious about and write to them. There are many ways of doing this, but here are a few I employ when I decide what to write here on the blog!
- Social Listening: I keep very active on social media, as it's a great way to engage with my clients, to meet new ones, and to make connections in my industry. However, social media is also an excellent tool to help you begin to suss out what your target audience is interested in. I find that particularly on Twitter and Instagram, I'm able to get excellent ideas of the type of content I need to be writing in order to write what my audience wants to read!
- Follow Like-Minded Blogs: I also get great content ideas from what other digital marketing firms and experts publish! Of course, you always want to make your own, uniquely valuable content and not just write what everyone else is writing. But by reading what others in your industry are publishing, you'll begin to get an idea of what you should be writing about. What types of questions do you have from the content? What would you do better? Get inspired and make something that fills in the gaps.
- Read the news daily: I read the news each day, in a controlled burst. Simply subscribing to a few daily emails is a great way to get an idea of what's happening in the world. I subscribe to theSkimm, CBC Daily & CNN's 5 Things. I don't necessarily fully read all 3 each day, but I like receiving a few different news sources to receive a more rounded perspective. This keeps me topically engaged with the world around me, as well as gives me ideas of what I want to be talking about online.
- Set Google alerts: some of my best content ideas come from my Google alerts! For those of you who've never set one, here's how to create Google alerts.
- Analyze Google Trends: each month before I determine what topics I'll write my blog posts on for the month, I go to Google Trends and enter some key topics I am interested in. From there, I get an idea of what people are searching. I've also heard numerous people recommend checking out Quora for this.
These are a few of the ways you can begin to develop an understanding of what your target market is interested in and searching for.
SEO expert Matthew Barby suggests this in a three-pronged approach. First, to find what questions are being asked (through tools such as Quora), align those questions to keywords, and then align those keywords to content.
Ultimately, you want to ensure you're writing something that your target audience will:
a) Be interested in and b) find helpful. Make your audience feel as though this was the blog post they absolutely needed! That it was written just for them.
2. Research & Select Keywords Thoughtfully
I'll repeat myself, but avoid keyword stuffing! Don't do it! Just don't! The days where you could write any post you wanted and then just stuff it full of the keyword as many times as possible are LONG gone. Google is SMART - again I cannot say this enough. It will recognize keyword stuffing a mile away, and in the end this practice could do much more harm than good to your rankings.
So what should you do instead? Focus your post around 1 or 2 long-tail keywords. These keywords should match the intent of what your ideal reader is searching.
When it comes to selecting keywords, you cannot do so blind - you really need the help of a tool. The Moz keyword explorer allows you to search up to 10 keywords per month for free (at which point if you need more, you can upgrade). You'll see that if I enter 'Blog Seo' such as for this post, the Moz tool will generate some incredibly valuable data:
Another great tactic is to explore semantic keywords. Semantic keywords are those that are topically related to your specified keyword. LSIGraph is a great tool for this. Simply enter the keyword you're going to be targeting, and the tool will generate related keywords. For example, if I once again enter our keyword 'Blog SEO,' we'll get the following:
The following are generated as semantically-related to my core keyword: 'blog checklist,' 'latest SEO blogs,' 'news search engines list,' and more. You can upgrade your plan in order to see the statistics on the usage and cost-per-click of these keywords, but even with this free version, you can start to develop some contextual keywords to pepper throughout your post.
Ensure that whichever keywords you select are targeting the right people and are answering the questions that these people are asking. First, you need to ensure you have a good idea of who your target audience is. Make a list of what type of information this group will be interested in and how you can solve the problems they may be facing. Ultimately, you want to ensure you have a clear understanding of who the audience is, the information they need, and the questions they will typically ask.
3. Champion a Positive User Experience
Content that ranks at the top of the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) are those pieces that are incredibly readable. This aligns to what I mentioned earlier, where writing for the reader is essential. When bloggers or copywriters focus on writing to rank and please the search engine, they're not focusing on the most important thing: readability.
I encourage you to start thinking of championing a positive user experience (UX) all throughout your site, but especially on blog posts.
A few ways this can be manifested and improve your SEO in the process:
- Have a strong internal linking structure: Each and every piece of content you write should be relating to one of the broader topics you're wishing to rank for. When you write a blog post, add links to other pieces of your internal content in order to improve the user's experience, as well as to rank better.
- Use strong anchor text on your links: When you include a link in your post, ensure that the link's anchor text makes it clear to the user what they're going to get when they click it. Additionally, strong anchor text that is aligned with the content and keywords will have a better impact on your SEO too.
- Pepper your content with images and other visuals: Throughout your blog post, it's a good idea to include relevant visual aids. This assists your reader to break up the post and it makes it more pleasant to look at.
- Use bullets, headers and lists to break up ideas: Online attention span is very short so in order to keep your readers engaged, add bulleted or numbered lists where applicable, and definitely break up your points with sub-headings. This also benefits your SEO. If you want a chance to rank for a featured snippet, this sought-after spot usually features content that breaks up the ideas as a bulleted or numbered list.
- Avoid too many ads or pop-ups: By now, you hopefully know the importance of bounce rate and the importance of keeping your readers in long enough web sessions that they are actually reading your content. Nothing will make them bounce off your webpage faster than the presence of too many ads or pop-ups. This makes for a very poor UX. If you want to include a simple pop up to increase your subscribers or mail list, or to promote a really hot deal, that works. But try to keep it to one.
- Delight with exceptional content: The bottom line... when content is exceptional, people want to share it on social media or link to your content on their own websites. This allows for your content to continually be promoted. Link building is a whole other process, but by creating exceptional content, you are encouraging others to link to yours. Additionally, high-quality content is essential to ranking better for SEO in 2019. Some recommend keeping your keyword density between 2% and 4% in each post.
4. Maximize Your Real Estate
There are many areas throughout your blog post that you can be optimizing that you may not even be aware of! It's important to be aware of these elements in order to maximize your optimization efforts. It may seem like there's a lot to think of, but trust me, once you get the hang of it, these practices will become part of your blog posting routine.
By harnessing these elements, you're maximizing your real estate and your optimization efforts.
- Rename all supporting image files: Before uploading images that you'll be using in your blog post to your blog editor, take the time to rename each file. For example, if you download a stock image of a family watching television, the image file may be named something like "IMG2930.jpg" Take the time to rename that file in a way that describes the actual content, such as "Family-Watching-Television.jpg"
- Add alt-text to all images: Once you add these images to your post, then go ahead and edit the alt-text as well. This may be automatically done for you when you upload the renamed image, but take the time to verify. Need a catch-up on alt-text?
- Customize your meta description: Ensure that you take the time to optimize your meta description. Without you taking the time to do so, the automatic meta description will just be the beginning of your blog post. Use this opportunity as a way to grab your audience! Also, include your long-tail keyword within the description.
- Build an internal linking structure: One of the best ways to optimize your blog posts is to develop a strong internal linking structure within and between your blog posts. Find opportunities within your blog text to include relevant and helpful links to your related content.
- Ensure your keyword is in main post elements: such as the URL, the main heading of the post, the meta description, and naturally throughout the body text.
5. Track, Analyze & Stay Attuned to Trends
You won't know how your efforts are performing unless you're constantly tracking and analyzing how you're doing. There are so many amazing tools online to help you with this. Google Search Console is a great place to start, as it will tell you how your website is performing and when you appear in search results. Google Analytics will also give you an idea of how each of your blog posts performs.
If you notice one of your blog posts is performing much better than the others, take the time to dig down and analyze it. Was it the author? The structure? The choice of keyword? Constantly be learning from what's working and what isn't. If you have an exceptional post that you want to promote again down the line, do it! Or, go through and pull out the key points for an infographic. Always be looking for opportunities to repurpose your content. Your time is precious.
If a post isn't performing so hot, don't rush to delete it. Try giving it a new title, and rework the body. Try going for a different keyword. There's always a chance to repurpose the content!
Remember... while it's great to rank for the search engines, the focus shouldn't initially be to rank. It should be to create delightful, beautiful and helpful content designed with your target persona in mind. After that, then you can optimize for SEO.
Feel like you need a hand to write for SEO? I'm an experienced copywriter with a keen and passionate knowledge of SEO. I'd love to talk with you more, and welcome you to contact me if you'd like to learn more!
Connect With Lauren on Social
Click here to head over to the original publication of this post, Blog SEO: 5 Tips for Optimizing Your Blog Posts, from Lauren Osselton Marketing Services