As content continues to be king, in order to run a successful digital marketing campaign, companies and marketers need to consistently publish quality blog post content on their website. However, these blog posts would be basically useless if no one saw them or was even searching for them. That being said, knowing how to optimize blog posts for SEO could mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful business. Content writing is one of the SEO best practices that can really help your website and your blog post start to garnish rankings.
Unfortunately, most bloggers and webmasters don’t apply the practice and disregard SEO. That is why there are over 644 million websites in Google’s index and only a fraction of them make it on the radar.
Now let’s take a deeper look at how to optimize content for SEO.
1. Truly Know What You’re Talking About –
Before starting to write, there are two things you should consider. First, be sure to clearly identify the goal of the blog post and research it thoroughly. Whether the goal is to sell a product or educate the audience, people can smell BS from a mile away and can tell if a writer doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Make sure to be educated on the topic before even beginning to try to put it into words. When actively learning how to write blogs for SEO, this is always the first place to start. Do the necessary research and be elaborate.
Second, Google ranks websites higher when they deem them as best matching the user’s “search intent,” which is what that person is looking for when they’re using a search engine. When readers get the information that they’re looking for, they often spend more time on your site, are more engaged with the article, and are far more likely to share it with their friends/colleagues. These are all behavioral factors that are often correlated with high rankings and more visits.
If a user reads the entire blog post or watches a featured video, Google will consider the page to be relevant in a specific search query and is more likely to rank it higher on the SERP. This is because the dwell time, or the total time they spent on the site, was longer than time spent on competitors sites publishing about this same topic. Conversely, if a user navigates to your post or site through a search engine and immediate bounces back to the search engine results page (SERP), Google may begin to think your page is not as relevant to the given query as they may have previously thought.
By engaging the reader with accurate and relevant information, the content piece is more likely to get your blog post ranking and driving traffic.
2. Keyword Research and Density –
Through the lens of wanting to write a content piece that is currently relevant and being searched for, the keyword research phase is one of the most important steps in the content writing process. Following deep keyword research, you will be able to decide what keywords you want to target, based on data. The decided upon target keywords should be word or phrase that has a fair amount of search volume (which varies from industry to industry/topic to topic) and that you believe would fulfill the users search intent.
When learning how to optimize content for SEO, be aware that it is necessary to master the keyword research phase and optimization process before you are likely to be able to get anywhere (at least this is often the case for small brands/businesses). As mentioned above, the trick is to find keywords that currently have a fair amount of search volume and, through reading your article, will fulfill the searchers intent.
Are they looking for a recipe for a chocolate cake, directions to the nearest coffee shop, or a new bathrobe? For whatever they want, there are specific keywords that, when included in the blog post, will help Google deem it relevant and will be more likely to have a higher ranking opportunity, resulting in more engagement and traffic.
To help simplify your keyword research process, use tools like SEMRush or Google Adwords Keyword Planner to get an idea of what keywords you should be using. Most of the high-volume keywords and phrases being used will be fairly similar, but don’t be afraid to keep digging and find those long-tail (but still highly relevant) keywords. Don’t shy away from using related terms, different variants, and synonyms, or keywords that are semantically related in some way. Google likes when the content piece is complete and covers all the bases.
If the goal is to rank locally before nationally, the SEO best practice would be to include the location after the keyword. For example, instead of saying “Italian cooking class” change it to “Italian cooking class in San Diego.” Location identifiers can help your website or article rank better in local search results, even if the searcher doesn’t use a location identifier in their query (Google knows where you are and where you have been…) Adding a location as part of a keyword is an easy way to optimize content for SEO at a local level.
Sometimes, the highest-ranking keywords sound funny, like “best turf dogs” or “coffee San Diego” and it can be hard to include them in a text without it coming off weird. However, over time, it will be easier to work them in so they sound natural and fluid. Feel free to use prepositions to help with the keyword target flow, search engines like Google are pretty smart and can likely tell if you are just trying to stuff words where they don’t fit – so make it flow and make it feel genuine.
A word of caution: when the text is bombarded with the same keywords and phrases over and over again (this is known as keyword stuffing) Google will actually penalize the site – so don’t keyword stuff!
Remember to also include your target keywords and phrases in the title tags, meta description, header tags, and, if possible, at least once above the fold. The presence of these phrases in the meta-data is also a crucial search engine ranking factor that shouldn’t be overlooked when someone is first starting to learn how to optimize content for SEO.
3. Article Formatting –
There are typical formatting rules that will help someone learn how to do SEO friendly blog posts. People in the SEO game have learned that by taking a look at their competitor, they can get an idea of what Google is looking for and what formats readers prefer.
To start, search your target keyword and click through the top 10 SERP results and determine what kind of articles Google is currently ranking well. The top three results will get the bulk of all clicks, so take a look at how they’re formatting their posts and decide if it would be beneficial to emulate. Then take notes. Is the blog post in numbered lists? Sections? Are there a lot of photos? Is the article long or does it have a detailed infographic?
Whatever it may be that makes the page unique, the websites that are ranking on the first page of the SERP are doing something right. It couldn’t hurt to follow their lead and make yours even better!
4. Mobile-Friendliness –
Now that Google has moved to mobile-first indexing, having a mobile-friendly website is a very valuable digital asset. Given more than half of the people using search engines are doing so off their phone, you will want to be able to serve your content in an understandable way, to both desktop users and mobile/tablet user. That being said, it is essential that webmasters/bloggers optimized their content to be mobile-friendly. Certain platforms that are used to build websites, like Shopify, Squarespace, and most modern WordPress themes, already include automatic mobile format settings – which means less work for you!
Some ways to ensure that a site is mobile-friendly is to use dynamic font sizes that change based on the given viewport, increase the site loading speed by compressing any images, minify your code and CSS, use a simple theme, use a minimal number of plugins, and creating a design that can automatically adapt to any device screen. It would be smart to occasionally pull up the site on a tablet or mobile phone to make sure that it is running properly.
Check out this article on how to make your website mobile-friendly for more information!
5. Internal and External Linking –
Both internally linking and externally linking can help move the SEO needle for your blog post. When internally linking, not only does it tell Google and the reader that your website has another page that may go deeper into a given concept, but it also helps spread the overall authority and link equity around your site.
External linking helps show Google that you are properly citing references and giving credit where it is due, while also allowing readers to view other sources that are writing about the same topic. Providing sources and a different perspective will help keep the article from appearing bias, and often makes a reader feel more confident in the source they are reading.
Furthermore, the link architecture, or the way internal linking is applied to a website, will not only allow search engines to find the site pages, but it will also enhance the visitor’s experience as they are more easily able to navigate through the website. Viewers will stay on a website longer and this will tell the search engine that your site has quality material.
As a rule of thumb, any time a source is linked, include an anchor text. The strategic use of anchor text is a great way to tell an audience what they’re being directed to and to allow the search engine to associate the correct keyword relevance for a given page. So, whether it’s to a third party statistic, a deep resource link, or simply to the homepage, use anchor text that is relevant to the destination URL.
This linking practice will also benefit the websites you are linking to. That being said, external linking could even help you earn organic backlinks from the site you linked to, as well as others from websites that may want to be linked to in the future (which will help your post rank even better.) Nothing beats some natural, you scratch my back, I scratch your back, blogging etiquette!
6. Crawling and Indexing –
In order for your site to be added to a search engine’s index and start ranking, it must be reachable and crawlable. When a website is crawled by Googlebot or another search engine spider, the search engine discovers and analyzes the page, and then attempts to determine where it should rank. These bots (aka web crawlers or spiders) will follow the internal/external links between pages, crawl through the meta-data, H1 tags, on-page copy, and alt-tags, as well as consider a large variety of other ranking factors.
If for whatever reason, search engines like Google are unable to locate and crawl your page, it will not be added to the index – ensuring that your site/pages are easily reachable is a crucial aspect to utilize when strategizing how to optimize blog posts for SEO. To expedite the indexing process, be sure to utilize the Google Search Console. The proper use of a sitemap and robots.txt can also help you lead the spiders in the right direction and ensure they know what to crawl and what not to crawl.
7. Optimizing Images –
Putting images on a website can be beneficial in many ways. Although crawlers can’t see them like they do text, they can still be indexed under Google images – which can help enhance your overall ranking. It will also keep viewers on a page longer, extending dwell time, and give that page bonus points with Google. However, they won’t be very useful if they aren’t easily crawlable, so it’s extremely important to know that, when you are optimizing your content for SEO, be sure to include images with optimized alt-tags.
There are specific ways to label and present images so that they can help get a blog ranking. In some cases, optimizing these images can be nearly as valuable as the content being created.
First off, it’s important to make sure the keywords and phrases chosen are listed in the alt-tag and description. Besides the keyword in the metadata of the image, the file should also be a clear name and labeled with plain and descriptive language – which could be something like “man-sitting-in-tinted-black-car.jpg.” This is so that, when someone searches something of that nature, that image pops up and they will know what it is simply based on the file name, making the user more likely to trust the image and click it to be directed to the associated website.
Infographics are another great feature to include on a website. They are rising in popularity and can be helpful with your link building efforts (learn more here).
8. Topic Strategy –
When deciding on a topic to write about, find a topic that people currently want to read about or would be interested in reading. Make the post a popular resource in any way possible, whether that be making it visually appealing, include unpopular arguments, original opinions, and thoughts, or formatting it as a list. Do whatever is needed to get the ball rolling.
If short on ideas, start with looking at the biggest names in the industry. For marketing, several that come to mind would be Neil Patel, Hubspot, and Moz. Take a look at what they’re writing about and use that as an inspiration for new content.
While checking out a competitor or big company’s website, take a look at how consistent they are with content. Take notes on how they garnish backlinks or interact with their audience. Tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs are also useful when researching what keywords they are using for a specific topic.
9. Optimize for the Featured Snippet –
Something to consider in terms of SEO when blogging is the featured snippet. This feature allows users to ask a question in the search bar and immediately see an answer to the question that has been pulled from a portion of an article on the web. Optimizing to be the featured snippet is a new way for bloggers to boost their visibility in the SERP and attract readers to their site.
In order to be the featured snippet, you must optimize your post. “Snippet bait” is the term used to describe how to optimize to be the featured snippet. Snippet bait consists of writing 40-60 words of text, typically in the first few paragraphs of your article that are optimized to give answers to burning questions people are searching for on the internet.
Above we can see that Layla Sleep, a mattress brand, is the featured snippet. Because their titled and numbered text answers a commonly searched question “how do you wash a weighted blanket”, they were chosen as the featured snippet. Layla Sleep answers this question in 40-60 concise words and uses the keywords (bolded in the featured snippet) various times naturally throughout the chunk of text.
10. Link Bait –
Linkbait content is content that has the potential to go viral and garnish natural backlinks. This type of content could be a funny video, crash-course guide, research project, or a stellar infographic. Basically, any content that people find valuable enough to share and link to. Although very difficult to do, writing linkbait focused content can garnish many desirable results in regards to your websites ranking and domain authority.
These 10 basic and actionable tactics are the first steps in optimizing your blog posts for SEO. However, optimizations are not one size fits all. Be sure to test, track, tweak, test, track and tweak again to be sure you squeeze all you can out of your article.
At the end of the day, the goal of writing a blog post is for people to read it, drive traffic to your website, convert the readers to customers, build additional brand awareness, and further engage and create a relationship with the audience. Despite the amount of work and time it might take to create a stellar content piece that ranks, it’s easy to see how knowing how to optimize blog posts for SEO could be a valuable skill to any business creating content.