Most of us read a blog post or two every now and then — in fact, you’re reading one right now.
And the reason is simple: blogs are a powerful marketing tool. They drive traffic, boost social media popularity, increase user trust, enhance search visibility — as long as high-quality expert content is produced, that is.
But creating an SEO-friendly blog is a far more complex and challenging process than it may appear at first glance.
So if you’re planning to start a blog or need to bring an old one back to life — this post will break down how to optimize blog posts both for people and search engines.
Creating content readers will love
With the growing popularity of podcasts and videos, many people take it as a given that content that blogs present has practically faded away.
But as a matter of fact, blogging is well alive and kicking. Let’s look at some sobering yet reassuring stats to get a grasp of how vital blogs still are to the success of online businesses:
Now, although it may seem like there’s nothing to it because everyone’s doing it, running a successful blog takes more than throwing a couple of keywords into a post whenever you feel like it.
To get Google to recognize the value of your site and take you to the top of the search results, you must focus on providing real value to readers!
As Google’s top priority is user experience, behavioral factors such as dwell time, social likes, shares and comments play a huge role in determining your rankings. That’s why you should create truly valuable content that’s primarily easy for people (not robots) to interact with.
Without further ado, here are the key points you should stick to when producing blog content:
Hire a professional copywriter
First off, if putting words together isn’t your cup of tea (move on to the next point if it is) but you want to make sure your business looks professional, outsource content creation by hiring an expertly trained copywriter on sites like Writers.Work, Upwork and Outsource.
Find a competent wordsmith who can thoroughly dissect complicated subjects and produce content that’s:
- Compelling to readers
- Addresses the topic from a new angle
- Better than competitors’
Pro copywriters can quickly produce excellent copy, giving you time to focus on what you do best.
Know and please your audience
Now, as soon as you identify your blog’s target audience, or buyer persona if you have a commerce project, the first thing you should do is find out what pain points they have and what trending topics they’re interested in learning more about. Then use that knowledge to provide them with the exact content they need via your blog.
Find out what your target audience needs are by:
- Directly reaching out to your customers
- Exploring niche-related forums
- Reading social media updates
- Studying competitor blogs
- Analyzing review sites like Yelp
- Examining question-and-answer sites like Quora
If you don’t define an audience, you’ll end up writing content for everyone and pleasing no one.
Develop a content plan
Next, set yourself on the right path to creating consistent quality content by preparing a content strategy and sticking to it. Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Determine your blog’s main message
- Decide on post topics (including guest posts)
- Choose the types of content to create (text, images, photos, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc.)
- Identify the content genres to publish (customer/product review, story, guide, interview, etc.)
- Select the promotion channels (social media, email, Quora, competitor blogs, etc.)
- Set the publication frequency and dates
Without a well-thought-out roadmap, you’re basically saying that you’re going to wing this blogging thing, hoping it all works out to your advantage.
Group posts by topic
It must be mentioned that blogs that create content just to come up in SERPs for specific queries are often disorganized. When that happens, pages with similar topics can start competing in SERPs, resulting in keyword cannibalization.
To avoid making a mess of your blog, apply the topic cluster model from the get-go. Pick a couple general topics from your niche and create separate blog posts around keywords from those topics. Just make sure all blog posts under one topic are interlinked:
As a result, every blog post will be organized by subtopic and linked via hyperlink to other blog posts with the same sub-topic. It takes a lot of planning, but the pay-off can give your relevance and domain authority a big boost.
Make your content stand out
When you come across a topic that’s been covered a million times before, think of a new, entertaining way to present it to make it stand out from the sea of competition.
Add podcasts, infographics, statistics, highlighted definitions, graphs, polls, memes, gifs, expert quotes, videos, data comparisons — play around with different options to make your posts valuable, yet entertaining and easy-to-read.
For example, request a quote from an expert on the topic of your post and insert it into your content to increase its level of expertise and reader trust:
Additionally, adding tools like loan calculators, interactive recipes, converters and other engaging elements shows a site’s quality and works great at driving regular traffic.
Ultimately, there’s no point in creating another piece of content that doesn’t bring anything new to the table, right?
Providing a great reader experience
Once you create a high-quality blog post, you absolutely must ensure your target audience sees and chooses to read it over all the other SERP options. Here are the main points you should keep in mind in terms of reader experience:
Write сatchy headlines
Get your readers hooked from the moment they see your post’s title in the search results. But don’t deceive them — make a promise telling them why they should read your post and deliver on it.
After all, the headline can actually make or break your blog post. If it’s catchy enough, people will spend more time absorbing your content and may even share it without reading! But if it’s not — then your post will be collecting digital dust.
So if you’re not seeing any organic traffic coming to your post that you’re confident is of the highest quality, try changing the headline to convince your readers to engage.
Follow the KISS principle
Now, with 43% of people visually scanning posts instead of reading them carefully, you should avoid presenting content in a complicated way. This is where bullet points, lists, white space, clear headings and so on make it easy for people to consume content.
Looking at the image above, which option would you prefer reading? Let me rephrase that: which option would you read? I think the answer couldn’t be more obvious.
Furthermore, with voice search growing in popularity, Google now hand-picks content that’s most on-point, informative, concise, and voice-friendly to provide instant answers to searchers.
Add social sharing buttons
To encourage people to share your posts on social media and boost online visibility, add social sharing buttons to your blog. This will build trust and enable readers to share your posts in a single click — a process that’s way simpler and more inviting than copying and pasting the link.
Moreover, you should include the Open Graph protocol — a set of meta tags that nicely structure the way blog posts are displayed on social media. To apply the protocol to your blog, include open graph tags in a page’s <head> section.
Here’s what a blog post that uses the protocol looks like on Facebook:
Build relationships via commenting
Among other things, both people and search engines get a feel for a post’s level of engagement by analyzing the comments section. It’s a great place for exchanging ideas and opinions about a specific topic, serves as a tool for driving and engaging traffic, and gives you content to share on social media.
So if you want to spark a lively debate to boost your engagement and SEO efforts, give your readers the opportunity to leave feedback if they feel like it! But don’t let spam through — set up comment moderation to hide all comments that you haven’t yet approved.
On a side note, if you’re using WordPress, you can easily add star rating plugins to your blog for commenting, which will then be displayed as a rich snippet in SERPs.
Before we get to the more technical aspects of blogging SEO, I want to point out that search engines often change what they value, so I suggest you review Google’s SEO Starter Guide and subscribe to their official blog to stay on top of blog SEO best practices.
Making quality content visible with SEO
Now that you’re aware of what blog optimization steps you need to take in terms of creating quality content, let’s look at the technical SEO side of things that’ll get search engines to recognize the value of your blog and display it in SERPs.
Use keywords wisely
Don’t write blog posts for the sake of ranking for keywords — that will lead to keyword stuffing. Write them to answer a question or solve a problem of your target audience, and integrate keywords into the text in the process, naturally.
In other words, each one of your posts needs to center around a specific search query and a story with an angle around it. Doing so will help you stay on topic, make for a good reader experience and solve the problem of your audience (that’s what they came for).
As for finding the right keywords, you first need to create a list of general topic-related keywords, then select 1-2 long-tail keywords (often question-based) with the help of keyword suggestion tools, and, finally, analyze your competition to refine the list.
SE Ranking’s Keyword Suggestion Tool makes finding top-performing keywords a breeze, plus you can keep an eye on the competition.
All you have to do is enter a keyword, choose a country and get plenty of suggestions along with their monthly search volume, suggested bids, KEI, and rankings. Then it’s up to your professional judgement to hand-pick the ones to use in your content.
Once you have the keywords you want to include in your content, add them to the post’s metadata.
The title is an important on-page SEO signal and is among the first things both search engines and people look at when assessing your content’s relevance.
Since Google tends to display the first 60 characters of titles, include the keyword at the beginning to avoid jeopardizing the post’s perceived relevance.
Including your keywords in the post’s H2 or H3 tags is also a ranking signal. In fact, John Mueller from Google said heading tags in HTML help them understand the structure of the page.
So naturally place keywords in the post’s body and headers to boost the page’s ranking.
Another SEO tip for blogs is optimizing the URL, which is yet another ranking factor.
As you can see, it’s best to have a clear and concise URL that mentions the keyword as early on as possible. If you have a long URL, there’s a chance your SERP visibility may take a hit.
Plus, structure URLs on your site in way that will make it simple for visitors to understand it. By the way, search engines also give more weight to such websites.
Bots and humans read the meta description to further understand the post’s relevance, and, as a matter of fact, it can actually make or break the click-through rate — a ranking signal.
However, there’s no guarantee that the original meta description you create will appear in SERPs as Google shows other content sections that include the searched keyword for context.
And since you can’t really influence what description searcher see, the least you can do is continue creating an SEO optimized blog, so that Google pulls up the best possible content into the meta description.
Google Images sees 21% of all searches made in the US. That’s more than the combined value of YouTube, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook, and Google Maps! And if you want to get ranked in Google Images, optimize your images’ title, alt text, filename, caption, and the text surrounding the image.
Some web browsers display the image title text as a tooltip when you hover your mouse over an image. However, a lot of people just tend to use the alt text as the title, due to the latter having certain accessibility problems on most browsers.
Next, if an image is not shown to the reader for some reason, descriptive text is pulled up from the image’s alt text instead, which is especially useful to screen reader users. Follow this example to add an alt text to an image tag via HTML:
<img class=”normal-image” src=”Nike ISPA Air Max 270 SP SOE.jpg” alt=”New Nike sneakers (ISPA Air Max 270 SP SOE)” title=”Nike ISPA sneakers”>
Another thing you should do is take the time to change the filename from “image1234” to “Nike ISPA Air Max 270 SP SOE”.
Captions are vital for image SEO as well, and are used by readers to visually scan the post together with the headings.
As a rule of thumb, image captions are used in long texts to provide additional information to support a certain point in the text.
Finally, the images in your blog posts need to be in tune with the post’s main topic. This is a big deal for SEO because if an image isn’t surrounded by a piece of text on the same topic, the page won’t enjoy higher rankings for the optimized search query.
Link internally where possible
Another established SEO best practice for blogs is interlinking your posts. While backlinks boost your relevance and authority in the eyes of search engines, internal links are no exception (think back on the topic cluster model).
If you’re writing a new post where you touch on the topic of another post or page of yours, add a link to that page:
Of course, linking to older posts comes naturally during the content creation process, but you can also link out to a new post from the old ones for all the same reasons.
Remember that as you are adding links to your own posts, provide relevant info in the anchor text and use the keyword where possible as search engines also look to anchor texts to understand what a page is about.
Finally, although conducting keyword research, optimizing metadata, and linking internally are critical to the SEO success of your blog, you must remember that you should also double-check that your blog’s code is clean, the pages load fast, and that they’re mobile-friendly.
But how do you know if you optimized everything the way you wanted to? This leads me to my next and final point: track and analyze your blog’s performance.
Tracking your keywords and SEO health
Once your posts are out in the wild, give them some time to find their place onto search engine results pages. Then start monitoring each one to see how well they’re ranking for the search queries you’ve selected:
With the help of SE Ranking’s Keyword Rank Tracker, you can set a target URL for any keyword and easily keep track of how each one of your pages ranks for each keyword.
Another powerful tool that enables you to thoroughly go through the technical aspects of your blog and evaluate its performance SEO-wise is Website Audit. With this tool, you can learn what’s working and what’s not, plus it advises you what steps to take to improve your blog for search engines.
And when you want to analyze a specific blog post from top to bottom — On-Page SEO Checker comes to the rescue. The tool checks all of the page’s technical details, shows how well it’s optimized for a search query, assesses content uniqueness, and highlights what improvements can be made.
So, if you spot that something’s not going according to plan, go back to the drawing board and continue optimizing your content — both for humans and robots!
Now over to you
In this post, we took a close look at why blogs are important for SEO and how to do it right.
To sum up, running a successful blog is not as simple as writing a post whenever you feel like it and stuffing it with a bunch of keywords.
It’s a demanding process that primarily requires creating authentic, engaging, high-quality content that answers a specific question or solves a problem the target reader has. Sure, there are certain technical things you can do to help your blog get noticed by Google and, consequently, people. But if the content is not up to par, then it’ll be a waste of time and resources.
After all, your blog is not just a way of getting your site into SERPs, it’s a great, but often underestimated marketing tool that can get a lot of people looking your way. So make sure you make the most of it and always look at blogging and SEO as two sides of one coin.
If you have any feedback, other SEO blog tips or questions — comment away. I’d love to hear your thoughts!