There’s little argument that the Internet has radically changed the publishing space. You can sit down and write an article now, and make it accessible to billions of people the moment you finish writing it. That’s a hug bonus for bloggers, but with so many people diving into the blogging space, we have to seriously ask ourselves how to optimize a blog for SEO.
Optimizing your blogs for search engine optimization (SEO) is critical if you want people to find your content. According to some metrics, Google process more than 3.5 billion search queries per day. That number is almost unfathomable, but it demonstrates the vast opportunity that bloggers have to get eyes on their content. That said, there are a number of essential steps you should take to make your blog rise up the search rankings. The tips below will help you optimize your blog and, over time, achieve much better rankings for your content.
Find a Great Keyword
Optimizing a blog so that it gets quality traffic starts with searching for, and identifying, quality keywords. There are a variety of tools you can use to conduct keyword searches, but I prefer the Jaaxy platform. It’s really simple to use and it allows you to save lists of keywords to refer back to later.
The key metrics you should look at when identifying quality keywords (when using the Jaaxy platform) are QSR and SEO. ‘QSR’ stands for quantitative search results. This number tells you how many other competing websites are ranking in Google for the exact same keyword. The ‘SEO’ score of a given keyword on traffic and competition for that keyword. A higher score translates to a higher likelihood that you will rank on the first page of Google for that keyword (which is the ultimate goal!).
The important thing to understand about keyword research is that it’s a balance between finding keywords that users are searching for and those that won’t leave your content way down in the rankings. In other words, you want to identify ‘low-competition’ keywords. These generally have a QSR below 100 and an SEO score about 90. There are plenty of these keywords to choose from, and ranking for them will greatly increase your odds of receiving real, tangible traffic to your blog. If you want to give Jaaxy a try, click here:
Title Your Blog
So you’ve found your keyword and now it’s time to start writing. This starts with creating the title of the blog you’re about to create. Here, it’s important to understand that the title of your blog can (and often times should) be more than just a regurgitation of your keyword. If you identify ‘online writing practice‘ as your ideal keyword, for example, you might want to spruce up your title to include terms like ‘5 Exercises for Online Writing Practice’ or ‘Best Websites for Online Writing Practice’.
When coming up with your title, however, you should know that Google tends to place more weight on the words found at the beginning of a title tag. So, in this case, some better options for a title using the aforementioned keyword might include ‘Online Writing Practice for Beginners’ or ‘Online Writing Practice for Kids’.
When I was first starting out as a freelance writer, most of my original clients were all about keyword density. Depending on the length of content they desired, I had to mention the preferred keyword X number of times. This was the preferred formula at the time, but SEO techniques continue to change and, as writers, it’s up to us to adapt along with them.
At the time of this writing, Google is placing more emphasis on articles that are written naturally. In other words, they can sniff out writers that are engaging in what we like to call “keyword stuffing.” This is exactly what it sounds like. It involves placing the keyword in a given article as many times as possible, even if it sometimes doesn’t make sense or add value to the content.
Fortunately for you, this practice is now frowned upon and you can write in your natural tone. One place that you do want to make sure you mention your keyword, however, is somewhere in the opening paragraph of your blog (ideally within the first 100 words). This allows Google to essentially double-check that the keyword you’re trying to optimize for is actually what you’re going to write about.
Throw In LSI Keywords
One other technique that can prove beneficial in the writing process is the inclusion of LSI keywords. ‘LSI’ stands for latent semantic indexing. In easy-to-understand terms, these keywords are those that are commonly used in searches alongside your target keyword. You can find these LSI keywords by conducting a Google Search for your target keyword and then scrolling down to the ‘Searches related to [your keyword]’ section. It’s a good practice to mention at least one or two of these LSI keywords in every blog you publish.
The 500-word article is a thing of the past. Increasingly, SEO studies are reporting that Google is awarding higher rankings to lengthier content. The study that I just linked to concluded that the optimal content length to achieve the best rankings for your blog is 1,890 words. That said, I’m not suggesting here that you aim to hit that figure perfectly on the head with each article that you create. Generally, however, it’s good to aim for content that exceeds the 1,500-word threshold.
Include Pictures and/or Videos and Optimize Them
Including pictures, videos, screenshots, and other multimedia into your blog posts has an indirect effect on the blog’s ranking. In other words, these types of multimedia tend to increase user-interaction, which is a signal area that Google is increasingly valuing. In short, pictures, videos, screenshots, and other multimedia serve to increase the perceived value of your content. More perceived value leads to more links which, down the line, leads to higher rankings.
Link to Other Posts on Related Topics
Outbound links are a great way to let search engines know that you are an active participant in the online community. From a writer’s standpoint, they are also a great way to add value to your blogs. While you may be an expert in your particular field, it’s hard for anyone to be an expert in everything. Linking to other articles that support your claims and provide your readers with additional information or evidence is a great way to add value to your content.
But simply adding a bunch of outbound links to random other blogs or forums won’t add as much value as including high-quality outbound links. These links tend to belong to sites with greater authority, such as government or educational sites (you know, the ones that end in .gov, .edu, or .org). Adding at least two outbound links to these type of sites in each of your blogs will help you optimize your content.
Link to Your Other Blogs
In addition to outbound links, it’s also important to give readers opportunities to peruse some of the other content on your blog. If you’re just starting out as a blogger, don’t worry too much about this one just yet. Over time, however, you’re going to start building quite the impressive portfolio of content on your blog. If the particular article that readers initially navigated to your site to read loses their interest, you want to give them opportunities to find something else on your site that they’re interested in before they navigate away!
Wikipedia is a prime example of internal linking. While it might not be a trusted source for your next midterm paper, it’s hard to argue against the job it has done dominating search rankings for a huge number of terms. Just check out one Wikipedia article and you’ll find several internal links to other informative pages on their site.
In general, it’s a good practice to add at least two or three internal links to each blog that you publish on your site (this can always be done at a later time once you’ve built up a larger content portfolio). The best place to add these internal links is actually at the top of your blog. This gives readers a chance to navigate to your other content if that particular opening paragraph didn’t hold their attention.
Input Keyword Variations in Your SEO Tool
Continuing with our blog SEO checklist, it’s time to briefly discuss your SEO plugin tool. If you’re unfamiliar, check out this informative article on SEO plugins. To keep things simple here, you’ll want to input your target keyword into your SEO setting for each blog you publish, but you’ll also be able to input several variations of that keyword (depending on the SEO plugin you choose).
These variations can include the LSI keywords you threw into your article, as well as other commonly used search terms related to your target keyword. Some examples (going back to our earlier target keyword) include ‘online writing’, ‘writing practice’, ‘best online writing practice’, etc. As far as I’ve found, there’s really no negatives to inputting several variations of your target keyword in your backend SEO plugin.
Write a Great Meta Description
Although it’s only 160 characters, your meta description has the opportunity to set your content apart from competitors. The one practice you want to adhere to is including your target keyword somewhere in that meta description. This will help with rankings and also reassure readers that your content will actually be useful to them.
Another recommendation that I have is to highlight what readers can expect if they click the link to your content. Rather than using a more sales-like approach (i.e. Have you ever needed to know everything there is to know about online writing practice?), give your readers a real sneak preview of your content (i.e. This article includes information on the best online writing practice tools for kids: [then list those tools!]).
Share on Social Media
Social sharing is a great way to generate additional traffic to your website. For one of my websites, for example, more than 11% of all the traffic to my site came through social media. While it’s clear from my personal metrics that organic search still dominates (which is why you need to invest time in learning how to optimize blog posts for SEO!), there is also clear value in going the extra mile to engage an audience on social media.
But you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting here. Sure, it’s good to advertise your content on multiple social media channels after it’s published, but you should also make it easy for your website visitors to share content with their networks through ‘Social Share’ buttons on your site.
There are many ways to display social share buttons, and your options will largely depend on the theme or host of your site. However you decide to display these buttons, make sure they’re easy for your readers to find. Making sure your social share buttons are easy to locate on all your blog posts will greatly increase the likelihood that your readers will actually make use of them!
Do You Have Any Tips On How to Optimize a Blog for SEO?
What experience do you have with optimizing blog posts for SEO? Which SEO techniques have you found to bear the most fruit? I’d love to hear how your experience has guided your approach to SEO optimization, as well as any questions you may have after reading these tips!
I firmly believe we’re always learning and expanding, especially in this ever-changing arena of blogging, Internet marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Leave a comment below letting me know if you found this article helpful or if you’d like to see an article on a different topic entirely. I will respond as soon as possible and I appreciate and welcome any and all comments (although I do reserve the right to remove comments if I find them offensive or inappropriate).
I’d also be thankful if you choose to share these organization tips with others, especially if you found it particularly insightful or helpful. Be sure to tag @ballisterwriting on Facebook or Instagram if you do! The point of social media, after all, is to be SOCIAL! I’d like to contribute to a real conversation about how we continue to improve as a society and as individuals.
Cheers to Optimizing!