I’ve talked about how to format your blog posts to get the most readers before, but today I want to talk about one of the most mystical creatures in these lands: SEO.
You probably know how important SEO is by now, but if not… well, it’s really important.
As a freelance writer and marketing agency copywriter, I spend a lot of time optimizing content for search engines, and writing about SEO for clients. There are some obvious tricks that everyone knows, like picking a keyword and mentioning it throughout your post. There are also some lesser known blog post SEO tricks out there to increase your rankings.
I’m going to share those secret tips with you today.
A critical thing to keep in mind about SEO is WHERE it fits into your writing process.
Any guesses as to where it should fit in? At the end maybe, when you’re editing your post before publishing it and want to sprinkle in some keyword magic dust?
SEO should be thought of from the very beginning of a blog post’s life. When it’s still nothing but a wee little idea tadpole floating around your brain.
Thinking about SEO from the beginning means that ALL your future actions for that post will be optimized for the Google overlords, increasing your chances of beating the algorithm and ranking high. F yeah!
So, with that in mind, let’s get into my top 10 blog SEO tips!
1. Think About Blog SEO From the Beginning
YEAH I wasn’t kidding about this one, so much that I’m even mentioning it again as my #1 tip.
Here’s what I like to do… I think up some topics to write about, then I research keywords in Google’s free Keyword Planner. So for this post for example, I knew I wanted to write down some SEO tips for you guys.
Before I even started writing, I opened up Keyword Planner and typed in some keyword ideas related to blogging and SEO. Like this:
The results showed me “blog SEO” was a pretty good option that fit well with my content, so I went with that. If you notice, I’ve worked that keyword in throughout this post.
Related: How to Do SEO Keyword Research for Your Blog
Google doesn’t care so much if you mention the exact keyword phrase anymore. It’s more important to write quality content than to worry about how many keywords you’ve used. Google’s algorithm is so advanced now, it’ll know you’re talking about blog SEO even if you write “search engine optimization for bloggers”. It’s all good to change up your terms, as long as they’re related to your content.
2. Put Dat Keyword Places
Still, it’s important to use your keyword phrase intelligently. Here are the locations you need to put it:
- Blog post title
- Post URL
- At least one heading within your post (an H1 or H2 tag)
- In your image title
- Image ALT description
- Pinterest pin description (don’t forget Pinterest is a search engine too!)
- Write it on your hand so you don’t forget it
Okay, that last one was a joke… did you actually do it? Naw, dude, you’re too smart for that right…
3. Write for Humans
Always keep this in mind. Beyond the keyboards typing in search terms and the SEO robots indexing pages and linking shiz… are real humans who want to read real content.
Make sure your content isn’t just full of jargon to impress search engines. Focus on impressing real humans instead.
The good blog SEO results will come if you focus on people. Really.
4. Consider Your Permalink Options
If you use WordPress, you have several different options for permalinks. Or, how your URLs look when people visit your articles. I’m sure other platforms have options too, but here are the options you have for WordPress, which can be found under Settings -> Permalinks:
I set mine as just the post name, though I believe the default in WordPress is to include the Day and Name (see above).
ShoutMeLoud recently did a study on how dates affect blog SEO rankings, it’s pretty interesting and you can read it here. While the results may not be true for everyone, it showed that having dates in your blog posts can drive down organic search traffic by up to 40%!
Crazy! I removed my dates awhile ago, and have seen an uptick in organic search traffic, but that could also just be because I’m rather new (3 months ish of regular blogging in my niche) and it takes a few months for organic SEO to grow anyway.
Either way, an interesting thing to think about trying out!
5. Link Building
Links are very important for SEO – always have been, always will be! When the term ‘link building’ is used, it really means two things: internal linking and external linking.
Internal linking is when you link to your own blog posts within your website or content. Like this, a post about 10 things your small business website needs to be successful.
External linking means you’re linking to other people’s websites in your post. Like this great article from Moz on link building for beginners.
There’s a whole wack of research on link building for SEO purposes, and how it can grow your blog’s SEO like crazy… especially when you get links from authority domains. But really, if you just focus on linking internally to your own content where it’s relevant (i.e. useful for the reader), and linking to external sources when you make a claim or cite a stat – you’re golden!
6. 1000+ Words On the Regular, Yo
It’s no secret Google prefers longer-form content to index. The general rule of thumb is to write more than 300 words per blog post. Some people say to stop at around 700 words, but frankly, I find that difficult.
Most of my posts are near, or over, 2000 words. There’s a lot of research to suggest a length between 1500 – 2100 words is ideal for pure blog SEO reasons. But really, like with any other SEO rule, quality trumps quantity every time.
That said, I have seen a huge increase in organic SEO traffic from writing over 1,000 words per post, consistently. If your topic is one that can be covered in less, go for it. Marketing and blogging topics are pretty wide, so I tend to write more. 🙂
7. Format Your Post Nicely
I’ve written about blog post formatting before, and why it’s so important. It allows your readers to skim posts easily – something that’s really important nowadays.
The basics of formatting a post for SEO is pretty much the same as formatting it for a reader:
- Use a clear, actionable title
- Use small paragraphs of about 2-3 sentences each
- Break up your content with headings and images
- Include your SEO keyword a few times in your post, and once in a heading
Just remember KISS: keep it skimmable, stupid.
8. Use a Blog SEO Plugin
If you’re on WordPress, the hands-down best SEO plugin is Yoast!
A bazillion people use it, including me, to write quality SEO-optimized blog posts. I have the free version and it works great for telling you if your content is optimized enough for your SEO keyword, and even a readability score (which is important for keeping users interested, and coming back for more content).
This is what it looks like for a new post, before you fill in the deets:
And this is what it looks like once you fill in your focus keyword aka SEO keyword. Mine is “blog SEO”.
You can also hit “Edit Snippet” to change the meta description for the post, which is the little 1-2 sentence blurb that shows up in Google search results, under the page title for each search result.
It gives you the handy red/orange/green tips at the bottom for improving your post! For me, it told me this post URL was a little long, so I decided to edit it down a bit.
The goal is to get a “green light” for both readability and SEO optimization in the plugin before hitting publish on your blog post. This plugin really works!
9. Get a Speedy Host
Okay, this one is pretty important. More than ever, Google is taking page load time into account when showing search engine results. That means if your website loads slow, you’re not gonna rank very high.
A lot of that may have to do with your actual WordPress (or other blog) installation. If you have too many plugins or crazy stuff going on, it can slow down your site. But sometimes, it’s just the web host you’re on and you can’t do anything about that, except switch to a new one.
If you’re on WordPress, it’s a good idea to look for a reputable SPEEDY host that has dedicated WordPress hosting plans. That means the hosting is already optimized specifically for WordPress, not just any old site. Some well-known options for this are WP Engine, Siteground, and BlueHost.
Siteground is who I use and recommend. They aren’t the cheapest, but it’s worth it. Their support team is excellent at troubleshooting WordPress problems too!
If you’re just starting out, Bluehost is a good way to go. Lots of people give them a hard time, but I used them for years because their plans are so affordable, like $2.95/month! Can’t beat that!
10. Have a Responsive Website
Last but definitely not least, it’s really important that your website be mobile-friendly. More so than ever, Google is taking in responsive design as a key ranking factor for search results and besides the SEO part, people are using their phones for browsing the web more than desktops.
In fact, more than 75% of my traffic comes from people on their phones! Oh heyyy phone people.
It’s important to invest in a responsive theme for your blog, no matter what you blog about. People are most likely going to find you on their phone, or click over from one of your emails on their phone. So just make sure your damn website is mobile-friendly already!
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