Optimizing your blog for search engine optimization is pretty straightforward, right? You’ve heard that all you have to do is:
- Pick a keyword with a high organic search volume and low competition.
- Make that keyword your blog post topic.
- Write a post of about 500 words on a single aspect of that topic.
- Wait for the results to roll in and climb the Google search ranks.
The thing is this:
If you follow the steps above, you’ll be waiting for those results for a long, long time.
Focusing on a single keyword and a single aspect of a single topic no longer cuts it. Neither does short-form content in the 500-word range.
- People are searching differently than they used to.
- Google algorithms have changed.
- Blog posts with a narrow focus are no longer the ones that shoot to the top.
You want to keep up with the times by broadening your SEO strategy. This article helps you do exactly that, even if you’ve never dabbled in SEO before, by going over some fundamental SEO best practices. Let’s start with the basics and go from there.
What Is Blog SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. In the most basic sense, SEO is the process of making your content easy to find for readers and search engines. While many SEO practices are geared toward an entire website, blog SEO is specifically focused on blog posts.
When done right, blog SEO ranks your blog closer to the top of search engine result pages, or SERPs. This, in turn, can:
- Attract more attention.
- Boost your traffic.
- Position you as an expert.
- Increase your number of backlinks.
- Improve your overall site ranking.
- Result in more sales.
The rundown of benefits clearly shows why blog SEO is important. Equally important is understanding how SEO has changed, and how it continues to evolve.
Isn’t SEO Dead?
Search engine optimization is not dead, although traditional SEO has given way to a newfangled way of doing things.
Traditional SEO involved:
- One keyword per webpage or blog post.
- Keeping topics tightly focused on the keyword.
- Creating blog posts in the 500-word range.
- Writing additional pages or posts to rank for additional keywords.
Next-gen SEO involves:
- Keyword clusters for each webpage or blog post.
- Expanding topics to cover every nook and cranny of that topic to build authority and trust.
- Creating long-form blog posts of between 2,000 and 3,000 words.
- Using topic clusters to cover associated topics.
- Writing additional in-depth web pages and posts for each topic in your cluster.
Blogging Elements to Optimize
While plenty of things have changed with regard to SEO over the years, a few things remain the same. There are certain blog elements you want to pay attention to, ensuring you use page optimization to make both search engines and readers happy and capitalizing on search intent. They are your blog’s:
- Title tag.
- Body and headers.
- Meta description.
Title Tag: Blog Post Title
The title is the blog post title or headline. Google refers to the blog’s headline as the title tag. Include one of your focus keywords in the title, and keep your title to 60 characters or fewer.
Anything longer than 60 characters will get cut off on the search engine results page. A good practice is to put your keywords and the most important information at the beginning of your blog title.
Using numbers is still a good way to get clicks, as people continue to love lists. Also keep in mind that blog readers are typically searching for answers to their questions.
- Informative titles tend to rank better on search.
- Emotional titles get better results on social media.
A good title (and bad title) for search might look something like this:
- No: Get a Thrill With These Content Hacks: How to Create Posts Using Top Blog SEO Techniques, Both Old-School and Newfangled Methods
- Yes: How to Optimize Your Blog for SEO: 10 Tricks for More Clicks
Body and Headers: Main Content and Section Intros
Keyword stuffing has always been taboo, and it still is. Use keywords throughout the body of your text naturally. If you’re covering the topic with the depth and focus your readers want, keywords tend to fall into place naturally.
Using keywords in headers in a piece of content emphasizes the keyword’s importance while introducing a new section of your blog content. It’s likewise helpful for search engines when indexing your content.
URL: Blog Post Website Address
Spot check the URL of your blog post to ensure:
- It contains at least one focus keyword.
- It lets search engines know what the post is about.
- It gives readers an idea of what they’ll be reading.
WordPress and other content management systems (CMSs) can automatically create the blog post URL based on your title tag. That’s fine if you’ve created your title using the best practices outlined above.
Meta Description: Featured Snippet
The meta description is the featured snippet that shows up under your blog title on search engine result pages (SERPs).
While the meta description length can be up to about 158 characters on desktops, mobile devices show a maximum of 120 characters. Keeping it under 120 characters ensures it’s compatible with both.
Using the full amount of available space tends to be beneficial. It helps readers get a better sense of what to expect if they click your link.
Images: Photos, Infographics, Charts
Quality images that add value to your post are a must. They must also be optimized if you want them to help the SEO of your blog. Search engines look for the “alt text” attribute of an image.
How to optimize images:
Image title: Create a title that identifies the image. This title is only shown when the user’s mouse hovers over the image. It has no SEO value but can be helpful for internal organization.
- No: IMG2052021.JPG
- Yes: Horse
Alt text: Include a brief description. This text is shown when the image doesn’t load or can’t be seen by the user. The alt text can be important for SEO as it’s what search engines use to identify the image. Get bonus points for using a relevant keyword.
- No: Image shows a brown horse that could wear our saddle all saddles are on sale today get yours now.
- Yes: Brown horse near barn
Keyword Research for Blog SEO
Keywords remain a vital element of blogging SEO, but they are no longer the end-all for getting new content to rank. Keyword focus has shifted to include:
- Keyword clusters.
- Related topics uncovered through topic modeling.
- User intent.
Rather than targeting a single keyword in a blog post, marketers are now including a cluster of keywords that are all related to the main topic.
Let’s say you were wanting to improve your ranking factor in an article on blogging SEO.
- How to Optimize Your Blog for SEO would be your main topic and keyword.
- Your keyword cluster would include dozens of terms that support your main keyword and topic.
Your keyword cluster would include related terms such as:
- Search engine.
- Content marketing.
- Internal linking.
- High-quality content.
- Meta description.
- Keyword research.
Start your keyword research by seeking out one or two long-tail keywords that match the intent of your target audience. Long-tail keywords:
- Help you focus on the specific goals of your audience.
- Ensure you get readers interested in and more likely to read the entire article.
- Increase the likelihood of getting readers who eventually convert.
You can clearly see how the long-tailed keyword of How to Optimize Your Blog for SEO would appeal to a more targeted audience than short-tailed keywords such as: blog or SEO.
The best bloggers will include:
- Target keyword.
- Keyword variants.
- Related topics.
Your target keyword serves as the focus topic of the blog. Use it:
- In the blog header.
- In the first paragraph.
- As frequently as naturally possible.
Variations of your target keyword should also be used freely throughout your piece. Like the target keyword, it can be used:
- In the blog header.
- In the first paragraph.
- As frequently as naturally possible.
Related topics are subjects commonly linked to your main topic. For best SEO results, each related topic needs to have its own subheading and discussion within your post.
Secondary related topics are additional topics that are somewhat related to your main topic. You want to cover them if the top-ranking posts from your competitors are. The best way to discover related topics is through topic modeling.
Topic modeling is a technique that aims to uncover the relationship between words and phrases. Search engines don’t just look for specific words when they’re crawling your content, they’re looking for words with related meanings.
Note that topic modeling goes deeper than related keywords. While you can find keywords related to your main topic through most keyword tools, you want to use a specific topic-modeling tool to find related terms.
Topic modeling software looks at:
- The number of times terms appear together.
- Semantic relevance.
- Related topics by importance.
- Other signals.
Another important element for next-gen SEO is user intent. Also called searcher intent, this involves focusing on what the readers want to know.
- What questions do people have about your main topic?
- What search queries would lead directly to your new content?
The job of your blogger is to answer those questions in the most comprehensive and readable way. You want your blog post to be the LAST blog post your audience needs to find on the topic. They don’t need to go elsewhere because you answered all the questions they have.
When your blog post is the last post clicked on a certain topic, it signals to Google that you are indeed an authority on the topic. And authority gives your blog SEO a big boost.
When thinking about user intent, SEO expert and Clearscope cofounder Bernard Huang says to keep the variety of search perspectives in mind. Search perspectives change over time. Unique perspectives that are starting to show up in SERPs include:
- Consideration stages: What to think about before diving into the topic.
- “5 Things I Wish I Knew About Camping With Dogs Before I Went”
- “Common Myths About Camping With Dogs”
- Expert viewpoints: What seasoned experts say about the topic.
- “What 22 Experts Say About Camping With Dogs”
- “Experts Warn Against Camping With Dogs”
- Experience: Firsthand experience with the topic.
- “I Tried Camping With Dogs. Here’s What Happened.”
- “How Camping With Dogs Changed My Appreciation of Nature”
- Contrarian: Opposing viewpoint that’s typically against the grain.
- “Why Camping With Dogs Is the Worst Idea”
- “Are You Sure You Want to Go Camping With Dogs?”
- Discussion: Covers what other people are saying about the topic.
- “Is Camping With Dogs Dangerous?”
- “How Difficult Is It to Go Camping With Dogs?”
- Current events: Links the topic to what’s going on in the world.
- “Tips for Camping With Dogs in the Wake of COVID-19”
- “Make Extra Money While Camping With Dogs”
- Predict the future: Makes an educated forecast of what’s to come.
- “How Camping With Dogs Will Change Over the Next 10 Years”
- “Gadgets in Development for Camping With Dogs”
“Make your SEO less dependent on monthly search volume and more dependent on covering the range of different perspectives or questions the user may have.”
Another major factor in blog SEO is the quality of your content. High-quality content can be defined as content that:
- Provides comprehensive answers to real questions people have.
- Informs, entertains, educates and excites.
- Helps your target audience.
- Gets people talking about, linking to and passing it along to their pals.
- Search engines like Google deem it worthy of sharing.
Those looking for Google’s definition of quality can check out the webmaster guidelines. They outline the basic principles of quality content (which are paraphrased here):
- Create blog content for readers, not search engines.
- Don’t deceive your audience.
- Steer clear of tricks meant to improve search engine rankings. Ask yourself if your content helps your users. Would you create this post if search engines didn’t exist?
- Make your blog posts stand out from the rest, incorporating what makes your content valuable, engaging and unique.
6 Things to Know About Quality Content
Creating a steady stream of high-quality content can be a big challenge, especially with all the factors you need to keep in mind. Quality content:
- Is focused on answering questions, not selling products or services. Some businesses may have a tough time rationalizing an investment in content that’s not specifically geared to sell. This can particularly hold true for ecommerce websites.
- Requires a bigger investment, especially for the long-form content that has been topping the SERPs. High-quality content takes a lot of time, effort and research to get it right. And you need to hire content creators who have the skills and expertise to get it right.
- Can take some time to show ROI. Content marketing is not going to make you an overnight sensation. It can take months for your new blog posts to gain momentum and traffic. But once a high-quality piece is in place, it can serve you spectacularly for years to come.
- Is easy and enjoyable to read. Readability refers to how easy or difficult your content is to digest. WordPress SEO plugins like Yoast can score readability for you. Blog posts with good readability tend to include:
- Shorter sentences.
- Straightforward vocabulary.
- An enticing style.
- Is evergreen. Quality content never goes out of style. While blog posts focused on current events may get a litany of quick hits in the short term, it’s the evergreen content that will help you most for the long haul.
- Can always be improved. The savviest digital marketing tactics involve refreshing existing content with new techniques. This can work especially well if the existing content has solid rankings to begin with. Go through your old blog content and revamp it with:
- Additional keywords and keyword variations.
- More details and information to fill in existing gaps.
- Different perspectives to touch on everything readers are looking for.
Another way Google determines if your blog content is worth sharing is through links. There are three different types of links that can be used in your blog post, and link building remains an important part of SEO.
- Internal Links
- External Links
Internal links connect posts or web pages within your own website. Use them to direct readers to related content or more in-depth coverage of a specific subtopic or idea. They can help the readers while also helping to boost the rank of your other pages.
Also called outbound links, external links connect your post or webpage to another site. They are useful for citing statistics and sources. They also provide resources for additional info. Linking to high-authority sites will associate your own site with those that have high authority.
Also known as inbound links, backlinks connect someone else’s site to your own. These are the most valuable for SEO, especially if they come from high-authority sites. Getting a backlink from a high-authority site indicates you’re in their league.
The other site may be using your blog post as:
- A source of information.
- An example of something they like or agree with.
- An example of something they dislike or disagree with.
It doesn’t matter if your content is being pointed out as something agreeable or disagreeable. What matters is that high-authority sites are linking to yours. Google takes this as a sign of quality content.
Make sure to use links as naturally as possible. Select anchor text that makes sense, or is related to the content you’re linking to. Stuffing links is nearly as bad as stuffing keywords. Both can also count against you, potentially dropping your ranking like a stone.
While you may certainly get results when optimizing your blog in general, you can get even better results if you optimize search terms with an eye on your competition. This particularly applies to small businesses that may be up against much larger companies.
Your first step is to identify your competition, which you can do with an SEO tool such as Semrush. Your organic competitors are organizations against which you’re competing for the same keywords. Start by selecting your top five competitors.
Once you know who your main competitors are, you can devise a plan to outrank them on the SERPs. Your plan starts with research. You want to determine their top-ranking content, with an assessment of:
- Amount of organic traffic for that content.
- Number of keywords and keyword variations for which that content ranks.
- Number and sources of backlinks for that content.
Your strategy can then involve:
- Using the same specific keywords and variations in new blog content you create.
- Finding gaps in the information so you can cover questions they’re not answering, or not answering adequately.
- Reaching out to the sources of their backlinks to ask if they’re interested in linking to your new content—while explaining how it’s more comprehensive and unique, of course.
Summing It Up
With all the info covered here, you should be amped up to create the most SEO-friendly blogs in your industry. You now know:
- The basics of blog SEO.
- How next-gen SEO is ousting traditional SEO practices.
- What blogging elements to optimize.
- The vast scope of keyword research, including a rundown on topic modeling and user intent.
- The importance of quality content, and what it’s made of.
- The role links play.
- How and why to conduct competitor research.
Your next step is to sit down and get writing (or hire writers from WriterAccess to do the writing for you).
The most crucial thing to remember is that top-ranking blog content always provides a phenomenal user experience. You want to write relevant content for the real people who will be reading your blog. Give them the information they want in the most enjoyable way.