“How can I optimize my blog posts for SEO?”
I’ve been working with writers for a long time. I’ve been blogging (and writing books) even longer. And in all that time, this is one of the most frequently asked questions I get.
You pour your heart and soul into something you’ve written, and you want people to see it. So it’s important for it to get found. You share links on social media. And if you’re fortunate, other people share your links too.
That will get your voice out there, at least as far as your network reaches.
But search engine optimization (SEO)…
That’s a whole different game. The exciting thing about search engines is that there are people asking about the very thing you just published a post about. And they don’t need to be in your network in order to find you!
That’s the big key to growing your audience.
If you can reach new readers who aren’t connected to you already, then you’re on your way to building a great platform.
The first rule of optimizing your blog posts for SEO is that you shouldn’t write for SEO.
Write for people.
That’s what really matters, and it’s the kind of thing search engines are getting better at detecting. Their goal is to provide the best answers to people’s questions. If they don’t, then people stop using them.
Once you’re done writing, there are several things you can do that’ll boost your blog posts for SEO. Do these things, and it’ll set you up well when the search engines come scanning and attempt to figure out how they should index you.
1. Have a Plan to Optimize Your Blog Posts for SEO
How does that saying go?
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
And that statement couldn’t be truer than it is as it relates to SEO. If you don’t have a solid plan, then you really don’t have much chance of success. And honestly, doing all these things exactly right still doesn’t guarantee you the #1 spot in search results.
But stick with it.
There’s definitely a bit of a momentum factor that can swing things in your favor over time.
The first thing you need to think about is how your website is set up overall. Is it clear what topics you write about? If you had a stranger in a coffee shop take a quick look at your site for the first time, could they tell you what it’s about?
Your subject needs to be crystal clear. And the site needs to be built to support your SEO strategy. Use pages and navigation on your site to tell a story. Keep it simple. And keep it focused on helping your reader find what they need.
The other big factor in your planning has to do with the things you write about.
Do you have a content plan?
Research your blog post topics a bit when you’re coming up with ideas for new blog posts. Go to sites like Quora and Reddit to find the questions people are actually asking related to your topic. Check out Google Trends to see what people are searching for. Then write blog posts on those questions and topics.
By the way, this is also a great practice to help you avoid writer’s block.
If you want to take that a step further, then do searches on those topics and questions now and see how others have written about them already. Then go write a better post on the subject.
2. Get the Meta Right
The metadata in your blog post is stuff that ends up in the code behind the post. It tells search engines (and social media networks) what the title, description, and other elements should be when showing it on their platform.
Most bloggers are familiar with the Yoast SEO plugin, and how your meta is managed in the snippet section of the widget. The Snippet Preview is what the information will look like on search engine results pages when people find you there.
Once you assign a Focus keyphrase (which should be unique to that post, and not used frequently around the site), you can edit the snippet with a focus on the three pieces of metadata:
- Meta Title – Your focus keyword or phrase should appear in your title. It can be different than the actual blog post title if something else works better for length or how you want it to read in results on other platforms.
- Meta URL – Referred to as the “slug” in the Yoast widget, this is the end part of the link URL. It’s best to keep this short and focused on your keyword or phrase.
- Meta Description – This is the description that shows up under the title and link in the search results. Don’t let this simply default to the first bunch of words from the blog post. While it should also contain your keyword or phrase, think of this as giving the viewer on search engines a reason to click through to read the whole article. It’s your mini sales pitch to search engine users.
3. Optimize Those Images
Image optimization is one of the biggest culprits of poor page speed on a website, which is a ranking factor with Google.
Loading a full-sized image from your DSLR camera sounds cool. But an image that is 4,000 pixels wide in a space that is maybe 800 pixels wide is overkill. And it slows your site down significantly because every visitor must then download that 5 MB image when they come to visit. Especially when the appropriately sized image is likely less than .5 MB in file size.
So before you load images to your blog post, make sure they’re appropriately sized. I like to keep things under 1,200 pixels wide and 500 KB (.5 MB), maximum. You can use free online tools like PicMonkey to do that before you ever upload the image to your site.
You should also use a plugin like Smush or EWWW Image Optimizer to further optimize those images when you upload. They will help keep the file size lower, helping you speed up your page load speed.
When you upload images, there are two things to consider that also directly impact the SEO for your blog post:
- Image file name – Before you upload a file, rename the file to include the keyword or phrase you’re targeting. This is far more descriptive than a meaningless series of letters and numbers as a file name.
- Image Alt Text – This is a sort of back-end code for image tags. Include your keyword terms on all the images in your post.
So don’t just make your images awesome for Pinterest, they can also help your SEO a great deal too!
4. Structure Your Content
Google likes structure.
So your blog posts should have some structure. It helps the search engine bots make sense of what you’re putting out there.
As it relates to the heading structure, the blog post title is typically in H1 format automatically. Following that, the main header sections within the post should use H2 format. Subsections under those main sections (while not commonly used) should use H3. And so on.
Just like your blog post title (as I mentioned earlier), your keyword phrase should appear at least once in your H2 titles. Don’t overdo it, once is enough to send the right signals.
Within the main body text of your post, you should use your keyword phrase a few times, including once very early in the post (in the first sentence, if possible). Again, don’t overdo it. Just make sure the post doesn’t go without the phrase you actually want to get found for!
5. Use a Great Link Strategy
Links are what makes the World Wide Web what it is! And they still drive more power for your SEO than anything else I’ve seen.
There are three different types of links you should be thinking about that’ll boost your blog posts for SEO:
- Internal links – Every blog post you write should have two links to other posts or pages on your website. Linking to other content from within your posts increases your chance for visitors to engage at a deeper level, but also increases the SEO value of all the posts.
- External links – Every blog post should also have at least two links to somewhere off of your website. Link out to other articles with supporting information or other people’s blog posts. The text that is linked and the destination page you’re linking to tell search engines even more what the content is about.
- Backlinks – This one is a little less in your control, but you’ll want to find ways to link back to your blog post from other websites. For example, another blogger linking to your new post helps to build your authority in the eyes of the search engines. The more links pointing to you, the more authoritative you look.
Develop a strategy for links at all three levels, and it’ll pay off in your rankings fairly quickly.
6. Think About Your Site’s Pagespeed
In their quest to provide the best possible answers for their users, search engines are focusing a great deal on the user experience. And your website’s page speed is one of the big factors it measures.
Basically, the slower a web page loads, the more quickly you start to lose the (potential) readers’ focus. So Google equates a slow website with a negative user experience. And that then pushes you down in the rankings.
While some of the issues with website speed are related to having a great web hosting service, you need to consider other factors in your website:
- Plugins – WordPress plugins are not inherently bad, but they do add more code to your site that eventually needs to be managed by a visitor’s web browser. Ideally, it’s a good idea to keep plugins to a minimum (fewer than 10, if possible). So look at what functionality is most important to you, and trim what you can.
- Ad networks – I know this is an issue with monetization for some folks. But again, this is about the code you’re bringing into your site. A few simple ads might be okay, but the more ads you build in, the more code you’re forcing users to load.
- Anything else that adds to site complexity – Basically, anything that builds off of basic functionality will increase the code and slow down the site. Even things like loading special fonts can slow you down. So you may need to make some design decisions related to what’s most important to you.
Studies have shown that every 100 milliseconds you can shave off your page load speeds makes a huge difference. So going from 3 seconds to 2.5 seconds may not seem like a big deal, but in the SEO world, there’s a massive difference between the two.
7. Blog Regularly
Consistency is big too. Google loves old content. It shows staying power. But they also love to see regular, fresh, new content. It shows them you’re committed to producing content on a specific subject, which essentially helps them build their library of resources.
At a minimum, you should be posting twice per month. It’s a pace that drips your content out there enough for everyone to not forget about you.
Ideally, posting 1-2 times per week gets a better stream of content flowing.
But that’s not a limit if you’re a daily writer. My point is that when it comes to SEO, you should focus more on quality than on quantity. Having a small handful of really strong posts on a subject is better than having a hundred posts done poorly (from an SEO perspective).
So whatever pace works for you, do it. And do it consistently.
Bonus Tip: Create Hub Pages
If you’ve ever written a series, you probably already know what I’m about to talk about here. You can use hub pages to centralize groups of posts in a central location. For example, if you have several posts on the topic of “emotional healing,” then you can create a single (authority) page that provides an overview on the subject and links to all your (authoritative) posts on the subject.
It’s an authority page linking to many authority pages. It sends all the right signals, giving search engines a great resource to display for searchers on the subject.
Like everything else, don’t overdo it with this. But you can get pretty strategic with how you leverage your content, package it up, and deliver it to your readers. And search engines will reward you for that!
It’s worth reminding you at this point about the importance of writing for people, not for machines.
There can be a lot to getting SEO right for your blog, and it can pay off pretty big if the search engines index you for certain terms. Just always, always, always remember that it’s still about creating great content for your readers.
All these tips and tactics will just help with making your information more findable. So work this stuff around your writing. Don’t work your writing around these techniques.
There are lots of readers out there looking for what you have to say. Let’s make sure they can find you!
Which of these tactics helps you the most right now? What helps you the most? And what other strategies have you had success with?
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The first rule of optimizing your blog posts for SEO is that you shouldn't write for SEO. Write for people. If you had a stranger in a coffee shop take a quick look at your site for the first time, could they tell you what it's about? Before loading images to your post, be sure they're appropriately sized. Keep them under 1,200 pixels wide and 500 KB (.5 MB), max. Use tools like PicMonkey to do that for you before uploading to your site. Blog regularly, but when it comes to SEO, focus more on quality than on quantity. A small handful of strong posts on a subject is better than having a hundred posts done poorly (from an SEO perspective).