Not too long ago, search engine optimization looked vastly different. Instead of typing a question into a search engine, prospective customers would pick up a phone book. A favorite trick among business owners was to name their business starting with the letter “A.” A-Driving School. AAA Plumbers. Aaron’s Drum Supply (even if the owner’s name is George, not Aaron). In fact, the more A’s the better; the higher you “rank” in the phone book.
Today’s search engines are a little more nuanced than an alphabetical list. Driving your business to the top of someone’s search query requires more than a triple letter name. SEO is the term used to describe all the methods implemented on your website to help it rank on search engines. While some methods are more involved than others, the principles behind SEO are actually quite simple.
There are many different ways to optimize your website, but one of the easiest is through your blog. If you find SEO daunting, here are four steps you can take today to improve your ranking and grow your reach on the internet.
Why Blogging Impacts SEO
First of all, you’re probably wondering what your blog has to do with search engine optimization. Or perhaps you’re kicking yourself for not adding a blog to your website in the first place.
Not to worry, it is never too late to start blogging on your business site. But what does it have to do with SEO? According to Hubspot, businesses that blog gain up to 55% more visitors than those that don’t blog. Not only that, but 38% of total blog traffic comes from compounding blog posts. In other words, evergreen blog posts that build up long-term traffic. It’s hard to have compounding blog posts without a blog and a long-term plan.
Here’s how blogging and SEO go together:
- Adding fresh content to your site indicates to search engines that your site is actively updated. The more content you have crawled and indexed, the higher your chances of improving your ranking on that search engine.
- The more useful content you have on the internet, the more reason you give your audience to return to your site. Building traffic to your site also builds site authority, once again, improving your ranking.
- Keywords are an important tool in SEO. Instead of cramming all of your keywords onto your homepage (which Google does not like), use your blog to explore keywords and phrases that apply to your industry and audience.
It really is that simple. Your blog allows you to create more relevant keyword-focused content. That in turn gives both your audience and search engines the information they need to keep putting your website in front of more and more eyeballs. That is the goal of SEO.
How to Optimize Your Blog for SEO
Before I share how to optimize your blog posts for SEO, it is important to understand that websites don’t rank on page one of Google instantaneously. Blogging is not a quick fix. If anything, your primary goal with blogging shouldn’t be to rank #1. Your first goal should be to write relevant, helpful content.
My mission today is to show you how to make every blog count. With these simple tools, you can ensure your already relevant blog posts are optimized for maximum potential. You can have great content and still not see growth in traffic or search engine ranking. Chances are, you’re just missing a few key tricks that will revolutionize your SEO.
Ready to optimize your blog? Implement these four things every time you write.
Find the Right Keywords and Keyphrases
Chances are you already have a running list of topics that are relevant to your audience. If you sell organic, raw honey, for example, your customers are likely interested in learning more about how the honey is harvested, its health benefits, and whether or not it will help reduce seasonal allergies.
Choosing topics relevant to your audience is important. It is also important to focus on a keyword or phrase within that topic. Let’s use the example of honey and seasonal allergies. You could just sit down and write a post about what you know, link to a few studies, and publish your blog. Returning customers will see it and benefit from your knowledge.
Optimizing your blog, however, requires a more focused approach to your content. Choose a keyword or phrase from your topic that sums up the content. “Seasonal allergies” is one example. Another would be “does honey reduce seasonal allergies.” In either case, your goal as you write your blog is to use the keyword or phrase (or some combination of the words in your phrase) throughout the article. The keywords don’t need to appear too often, only about once every 200 words (or less). A helpful rule of thumb is to make sure your keyword shows up once per section of your blog.
Why this Works
Focusing on a keyword or phrase within your blog post allows you to target the words and phrases new customers use in a search engine. When a potential customer searches for “the effect of honey on seasonal allergies” and your blog is properly optimized, the higher the likelihood it will appear in their search results.
Keywords are also a great tool for brainstorming new topics for your blog.
Quick pro tip: when you type “Honey and seasonal allergies” into the search bar, look at the “Related Searches” at the bottom of the page. These provide a gold mine of new content (and keyword) ideas for new blog posts.
If there is one thing we know about modern-day readers it’s that they love to skim. The average time spent on a blog post is 37 seconds. What that means is somewhere between the person who clicks right off your blog and the person who reads the entire article is your average reader. And your average reader is skimming the page.
In order to help that reader consume more content, faster, we utilize headers, lists, and small paragraphs. It’s the headers, however, that will best optimize your blog.
If you aren’t familiar with headers, those are the font styles in most word processors that are designated H1, H2, H3, and so on. The numbers represent different header sizes. For every blog you write, it is best practice to use at least one H1 (the biggest header font) and a variety of H2 and H3.
A good rule of thumb is to include a header or subheader approximately every 300 words. If your section is longer than that, an image also serves to break up the content.
Why this Works
By using headers, you prompt yourself to break your content into digestible chunks. You also give your readers the ability to pick and choose which chunk they want to read.
Most importantly, the different headers help search engines crawl your content and determine if it is helpful information for your audience. The easier the content is to crawl, the more accurate the search engine will be with indexing your content.
Quick pro tip: Be sure to include your keyword in your title, H1, and at least one H2 or H3. This tells search engines that your content is relevant to any search that includes that keyword.
Make Your Content Credible
Google, the most popular search engine, prioritizes content that is engaging, valuable, high quality, and credible. What does that mean for your blog?
Credibility comes in all shapes and sizes. Testimonials and reviews are a great way to lend credibility to your website. When it comes to your blog posts, providing citations for quoted data and links to outside sources is the fastest way to prove credibility.
Another way to look at credibility is to consider your blog more than just a place to share your opinion. It is a source for your audience to explore and learn valuable information related to your industry. Providing facts, statistics, and pertinent resources are all ways to prove that your content is credible.
Why this Works
While you may be the expert on your topic, search engines assign greater value to your content if you link to other sources. These are called outbound or external links. You can see how I’ve utilized links to source the data I’ve shared in this blog.
Even just one or two outbound links communicate to search engines that your content is likely credible.
Quick pro tip: Be sure to include links to reputable sources and websites. Links to questionable sites will only damage your SEO efforts.
Optimize Your Metadata
Before you jump ahead and click “publish” on your blog, you need to take a look at your metadata. Metadata includes the title tag, meta description, and URL. Most content management systems (i.e. WordPress or Squarespace) provide tools to help you easily manage your metadata. If you don’t make changes to the data yourself, search engines will take matters into their own hands. This leaves you with less than useful content showing up in search results.
The first step is to optimize your title tag. This is the clickable link that shows up in search engine results.
Optimized title tags are usually around 60 characters, include one keyword (usually placed toward the beginning), and clearly describe what the content is about. In the example below, the content is for my homepage. You can pretty clearly see what it is I do.
The next section is the meta description, that little bit of text below the title that tells you more about the content. The point of a meta description is to encourage visitors to click on your blog. If you don’t add your own meta description, most search engines will simply pull a portion of text from your blog to create the description.
Meta descriptions should be around 160 characters, include keywords, and give readers a clear idea of what your blog is about. Descriptions can be longer than 160 characters, just know that search engines will likely truncate the description (as you can see below).
The final step to optimizing your metadata is the URL. Long, convoluted URLs with strange character combinations don’t bode well for generating link clicks. When a URL looks messy, it communicates to visitors that the link isn’t reputable.
Instead, be sure to modify your URL so that visitors can clearly see where they will end up. Include keywords from the title of your blog post and reduce URL clutter.
Why this Works
Metadata impacts SEO both directly and indirectly. The title tag helps search engines know what your page is about. Meta descriptions and URLs, on the other hand, help your visitors decide if they want to click on your page. The more visitors clicking on your link, the more likely your page will continue to rank higher in search results.
Quick pro tip: When doing keyword research, pay attention to title tags and descriptions that show up in search results. Ask yourself how you can improve on what you see. Make this part of your strategy for better optimization!
Keep SEO Simple
Optimizing your website and blog doesn’t need to be complicated. The real goal of blogging is to provide high-quality content for your audience and potential audience. The more content you produce that answers relevant questions, the more chance you have of showing up on the front pages of search engines.
By following simple steps to integrate keywords, break up content using headers, provide links to outside sources, and clean up your metadata, you greatly increase your chances of getting your blog in front of more readers.
Remember, content marketing (a.k.a. blogging) is not a quick path to overnight success. The more content you have on the internet (and the longer that content stays relevant), the more opportunities visitors have to find you and benefit from your expertise.