How to Write a Blog Post that Improves Your Search Engine Visibility
Optimizing your website for search engines is a multi-step process: Analyzing your site architecture, organizing the information into SEO “buckets”, and focusing each page around a keyword or phrase. But when your site has been well-optimized, one of the most effective next steps you can take is to write blog posts.
Writing a blog post is about more than knowing the information, though. If you want Google to see the information and rank it appropriately, the following are the guidelines to follow.
But First, How Blogging Increases Your Website’s Visibility
Your blog isn’t just about increasing the number of pages on your site. Instead, the focus of your blog posts should be strategized in relation to your SEO goals. If you haven’t gotten a keyword analysis done for your site, I would highly recommend finishing the analysis before you start blogging. Blogging without a keyword analysis is like setting out without a map; you might succeed, but it will take longer and be less effective, and you might end up ranking for the wrong audience.
Your blog should support the keyword strategy for your pages. The pages should be focusing on one primary keyword each, and the blogs you write should be long-tailed key phrases expanding these ideas.
For example, let’s say you have a site for a Massage Therapy business. You have a services page for a “Sports Massage”. To support this services page, you create blog posts around the questions people have about sports massage like “Will a sports massage help knee pain”.
If you’re wondering what people are asking about your focus keywords, the site Answer the Public is a great resource.
Continuing our example with the massage site, if you only have 1 page with the keyword “sports massage”, you’ll only be able to rank once for that keyword. It’s unlikely that someone asking questions about “sports massages” will result in your page ranking. But the more questions surrounding your primary keywords that you answer, the more likely that your site will rank high for all the surrounding keywords.
The best side-effect of writing about key phrases around your primary keywords is that Google will be more likely to see you as an expert in that field… and Google moves experts higher in its search results.
Once you have a writing content strategy, the next step is to make sure you capture every possible opportunity for optimization on each blog post.
Elements to Include and Optimize to Make Your Post SEO Friendly
Once you know what you should be writing about, utilize the following 6 key elements to make sure Google ranks your blog post and subsequently raises the visibility of your website.
Creating a Quality Blog Post Title
Obviously your post will have a title, but the quality of your blog post title severely effects your SEO. First, make sure it communicates what the post is about. Don’t use cutesy titles; you have under half a second to convince someone to click your link, so users have to be able to immediately recognize that your post will solve the question they have.
Second, make sure they include your primary keywords or key phrase that you’re optimizing this post for. Keywords in a title are seen as more important by Google. Don’t make the mistake of wasting your post by not adding the keywords to the title!
Using Images to Optimize for Search Engines
Every post you make should include at least 1 image. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that images break up walls of text for a visual break for the user and they can help explain a concept you’re writing about.
But on the SEO side, an image’s “alt” tag allows Google to register this image in the image search results (not the main Google search results) better. The image alt tag should describe the image, not necessarily include your keywords. They shouldn’t be overly long, but do make them descriptive. Most importantly, don’t keyword stuff these image alt tags. This is not a place for all your keywords to go, but rather a description of the actual image in relation to the text so it can rank in the image search results.
There’s another important reason to make sure you include an image’s “alt” tag, though. For those who use screen-readers to view the internet, the alt image allows them to “see” the image and follow the article’s flow. With ADA compliance becoming increasingly important, making sure your images have alt tags is an important part of following the ADA compliance rules. Most importantly, alt tags let your visual-impaired readers use your site as well.
Using Headings in Blog Posts
Headings are hugely important in your blog post. In programming, Headings are denoted used “H1” to “H6” tags. H1 is the most important, while H6 is the least important of the headings. Headings provide Google with an outline of your page or post.
The title of the post should (automatically in the coding) be denoted as a Heading 1. You can double-check this by previewing/viewing the post, right-clicking on the title of the post, and seeing if it’s surrounded by “<h1>”. You can see it in two places below: first, in the small pop-up above the title itself (in the chrome browser), and then it’s also highlighted in the code below. If this is not true of your blog, you’ll need to contact a developer to fix it.
While the title should be automatically marked as Heading 1, the rest of the headings in your post are up to you.
Remember these headings are operating as an outline for Google, so they can’t just be added to any part of the post. First, split your post into major sections. These will each have a title using the “Heading 2” denotation. Any sub-titles under those can have the “Heading 3” tags. Here’s this post as an example:
- How Blogging Increases Your Website’s Visibility (h2)
- Elements to Include to Make Your Post SEO Friendly (h2)
- Creating a Quality Blog Post Title (h3)
- Using Images to Optimize for Search Engines (h3)
- Using Headings in Blog Posts (h3)
It’s perfectly fine to not have sub-headings under some sections. Typically in blog posts, most people only use the Heading tags 2 and 3. Sometimes you might use a Heading tag 4. It’s rare to use Heading tags 5 or 6.
If you look at your post after you’re done writing and find zero headings, that’s a problem. In most instances, you’ll want to either split up your post into sections so you can add headlines or make the post longer (some exclusions may apply, ie. Press Releases).
After adding headings, read them through to make sure they flow logically. You might need to go back and re-write or re-organize the information. After all, these Headings aren’t just for Google’s organization of your post content: it’s also for your users. Headings can provide them with “road signs” so they don’t get lost as they read or so they can skip to the part they’re looking for. And for those that use screen-readers, Headings are essential for them to navigate the information easily.
Categories and Tags for SEO
Your content may be written, but there’s still quite a few items to complete before you publish your new post. Categories and tags are two important aspects to help your users and further delineate the information for Google.
Categories should be well thought-out organization. These are intricately linked to your optimization of the site overall. Each category should deal with a keyword “bucket”. These could be the same primary keyword or keyword phrase that one of your pages is optimized for or it could be different.
If you have sub-categories, these should be split up by major subjects under that category. These will be somewhat unique for each site. But you want to make sure you don’t end up with 50 categories. Keep them to around 10 major ones, with sub-categories as needed. Organization is key here. While Kon Mari‘s method of asking if it’s “bringing you joy” might not work perfectly on blog organization, tidying your blog just might transform your SEO.
Tags can be used to allow users to move from one blog post to another. The main difference between tags and categories is that tags are not able to be nested under each other. They are “flat” organizationally. They should be different than the categories, but just like categories you should make sure you aren’t using an exorbitant amount of them.
Tags are NOT the keywords for your blog posts. You don’t even need to use tags if they don’t make sense for your posts. If they add to the functionality of your site, use them. If they don’t, you can leave them empty.
Setting a Meta Title and Description
You’ve got the actual blog post written, categorized, and added images, but there’s one more item you’ll need to edit. This final step is not necessarily visible on your page, so it’s easy to forget. Using your favorite SEO plugin or HMTL coding itself, you’ll want to make sure your Meta Title and Description are set up.
Yoast. If you’re using the Yoast plugin, the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress, you’ll see a small box below your blog post’s text area that has a “Snippet Preview”. Snippet is what the small summary of information that shows up Google’s search results is called. These will be automatically populated with your post’s title and the first sentence or two of your post. To edit, click on the title or description to have a box below open up.
Other SEO Plugins. All in One SEO or other SEO plugins will have something similar to Yoast. It will be on the post, generally below the text you just wrote. It might also show up on the admin page that lists all the posts. Look for an edit icon or text to edit.
To set the title, make sure it matches your post title and that it doesn’t have any other random characters. Frequently, depending on how your plugin is set up, an extra “|” or “-” (dash) will be after the title. Make sure you remove that. Other times you might see your site title show up after the dash. This is a bit of a hold-over from older SEO practices. Google knows what site it is on, so you should remove the site title. There are no positives to adding your site title, but there might be penalties, so make sure you remove it. Regardless of what SEO plugin you’re using, there will most likely be a setting where you can remove the site name from all of your posts programmatically.
The Meta description, directly below the title, is the “hook” description that convinces someone to click on the Google result. There’s no need to get gimmicky. Be straightforward about the information you’re providing in the post and those looking for that information will click through.
Optimizing the Permalink
The final item on our Post SEO list is double-checking your permalink. Located directly below the title of the post, the permalink is the URL that the users type into their browser to find the page. For example, this posts’s permalink is /writing-a-blog-post-that-helps-your-seo/. Seems pretty simple, but you’ll want to do a final check before you publish.
What should your permalink be? It should be very similar to your post title. The closer the keywords are to the front of the URL, the better though, so make sure the keywords you’re focusing on are strategically placed toward the front of the URL. At the same time, the URL shouldn’t be a random assortment of keywords; if someone reads the URL, they should have a pretty good idea of what the article is about.
If you change your permalink after publishing, you’ll need to make sure you forward the old link to the new one. Otherwise, people who click on a link to your post (say, one you shared on Linkedin), will end up at a 404 page instead.
When to Publish Your Blog Posts
You’re ready to publish! Except, timing matters. Your industry will have its own unique timing that will bring in the most readers. Keep that in mind for these stats:
- People read more blog posts in the mornings than the afternoons or evenings
- Mondays get slightly higher blog views than other weekdays, but significantly more than weekends.
- 11am is the time the highest percentage of blogs are being read on average, though this is only slightly higher than 10am – 4pm.
- Saturdays see slightly more comments getting posted than other days.
- 5am and 9-10am is when most comments are made by hour.
Figuring out when your ideal client is most likely to read your posts can be trial-and-error. To get a good idea of when your content is being consumed, take a look at your site’s Google Analytics. Start by posting during a higher traffic time for you website, but then try other periods to see what the response is.
Sharing Your Post on Social Media
Build it and they will come? Not so much. There are over 505 million blogs (2018) on the internet, with over 2 million being written every day. You not only need to write a quality blog post and make sure you optimize for search engine results, you also need to get your post in front of people who could use the information. Social Media can be a fantastic way of making that happen.
Not every social media platform will be effective for your content. If you aren’t familiar with a social media platform, grab your business URL, but make sure you know the unspoken rules, actual rules, and the “guidelines” of each one before you start posting. Regardless of which ones you end up deciding to use for your business, make sure you share your blog posts on them!
The Checklist Summary
If you’re just getting started writing posts or you’ve just started making sure your posts are optimized, here’s a summary checklist to help you get the most out of every blog post:
- Quality Blog Title
- At least 1 image, and all images have alt tags
- Includes Headings and the outline makes sense
- Set Categories appropriately
- Set Meta Title and Description (Yoast or other SEO plugin)
- Double-check the Permalink