Search engine optimization is incredibly important for marketers. When you optimize your web pages — including your blog posts — you’re making your website more visible to people who are looking for keywords associated with your brand, product,or service via search engines like Google.
How do you know what matters and what doesn’t? What are today’s blog SEO best practices, and what’s considered “old-school”? How on earth can you keep it all straight?
We understand confusion is a common issue facing inbound marketers — and we want to help. In this post, we’ll cover how to optimize your blog posts for the keywords you care about, along with a few other optimization tactics you should keep in mind.
Whether your blog is business or personal,you should ensure that you are optimizing your blog for both your readers (after all, you want to keep those readers coming back) and the search engines. Unfortunately,optimization is an important step that far too many blogs seem to be skipping over, even those that have a broad appeal to surfers and have the potential to be monetizable. However, optimizing a blog is a bit different than your standard website search engine optimization (SEO), particularly because most blogs run off standard blog platforms, or worse, run as a hosted blog on someone else’s domain name. And there are design issues that can be unique to blogs which can impact your rankings.
Let’s face it, when you commission a styling’ new blog template, most blog designers focus on making your blog look the way you want it to. But unfortunately for bloggers, not very many of those great blog designers are also SEOs by trade, meaning that the blog design you use could actually be hurting your search engine rankings. While you may have a great design that looks wonderful to readers, new readers might not find you if your blog isn’t ranking well organically in the search engines. Also, when you optimize your blog for the user experience, you make it easy for users to return and engage in your blog without dealing with any of the hassles that can cause them to abandon other sites or blog entries. Repeat visitors are the cream of your blog, so by following these tips you.
Note that this list doesn’t cover every single SEO tactic under the sun. Rather, these tips are meant to get you started with improving SEO for your blog in particular.
1) Focus on 1–2 long-tail keywords. Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Turns out that’ll actually hurt your SEO because search engines will think you’re keyword stuffing (i.e., including your keywords as much as possible with the sole purpose of gaining ranking in organic search).
But that’s not cool with search engines, nor does it make for a very good reader experience. Instead, you should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced. A good rule of thumb is to focus on one or two keywords per blog post. This’ll help keep you focused on a goal for your post. While you can use more than one keyword in a single post, keep the focus of the post narrow enough to allow you to spend time actually optimizing for just one or two keywords. Using long-tail keywords may be more efficient to this end, since website visitors searching long-tail terms will often be more qualified. In other words, you’ll bring in the right type of traffic — visitors who convert — by using long-tail keywords.
2) Include these 1–2 keywords in specific parts of your post. Now that you’ve got your one or two keywords, it’s time to incorporate them into your blog post. Where are the best parts of your posts to include these terms so you rank high in search results? There are four essential places where you should try to include your keywords: headline, headers and body, URL, and meta description.
a) Title The title (i.e., headline) of your blog post will be a search engine’s and reader’s first step in determining the relevancy of your content, so including a keyword here is vital.
Be sure to include your keyword within the first 65 characters of your headline, which is just about where Google cuts it off on search engine results pages (SERPs). Technically,Google measures by pixel width, not character count, and it recently increased the pixel width for organic search results from approximately 500 pixels to approximately 600 pixels, which translates into around 65 characters.
Long title? When you have a lengthy headline, it’s a good idea to get your keyword in the beginning since it might be cut off in SERPs towards the end, which can take a toll on your post’s perceived relevancy. In the example below, we had a long title that went over 65 characters, so we front-loaded it with the keyword web were trying to rank for: “on-page SEO.”
b) Headers & Body Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers. That means including your keywords in your copy, but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don’t go overboard at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing. Before you start writing a new blog post, you’ll probably think about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s a smart idea, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, nor even your primary focus. Whenever you create content, your primary focus should be on what matters to your audience , not how many times you can include a keyword or keyword phrase in that content.
Focus on being helpful and answering whatever question your customer might have asked to arrive on your post. Do that, and you’ll usually find you naturally optimize for important keywords, anyway.
c) URL Search engines also look to your URL to figure out what your post is about, and it’s one of the first things it’ll crawl on a page. You have a huge opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every post lives on its own unique URL — so make sure you include your one to two keywords in it.
In the example below, we created the URL using the long-tail keyword we were trying to rank for: “best ways to make money online”
d) Meta Description Later in this post, we’ll dive into explaining meta descriptions. Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post’s content — so be certain to use your long-tail term so Google and your audience are clear on your post’s content. At the same time, keep in mind that the copy matters a great deal for click rates — the more engaging the better.
3) RSS Me! Make sure you have RSS available. Many hosted blogging solutions don’t have RSS automatically available, so you will need to add it. And when you do add it, ensure you have those RSS links in an obvious spot. Don’t tuck them away at the very bottom of your index page after your most recent 20 entries, or hide them on a separate “About Us” page. Place all those handy subscribe links in your sidebar, which is exactly where people will look for them. If you use Feedburner currently, have a look at their new MyBrand optionwhich allows you to host your own feeds for a seamless user experience.
4) Pay Attention to How You Write. One of my favorite bloggers has the unfortunate habit of writing detailed long entriesâ€¦ without a single paragraph break and with the double whammy of also writing with a font size smaller than usual. If I look up for a moment, it is hard to find my place again in her 1000 word entries. As a result, I don’t read it as often as I would like to, simply because reading it is such a painful experience.
5) How Fast is Your Host? Another one of my favorite blogs has such a slow response time when I click from the snippet in my RSS to the full blog entry that I only actually end up waiting around for it to load about 10% of the time. Don’t lose readers because your hosting company thinks 30 seconds is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to load up a page.
7) Post Often The more frequently you post, the more likely Googlebot and other bots will stop by on a more regular basis. If you only post once in a blue moon, expect that it might take a while for Google to stop by and see that you actually have updated again. Google loves updated fresh sites, so it make sense to feed the bot what it wants.
8) Use a Good URL Structure. Don’t use “permalinks” such as www.yourblogsite.com/?p=123 . Instead, use www.yourblogsite.com/2007/01/01/blog_entry_title_here. Most blogging platforms allow you to change from the standard numbered permalinks to this style of search engine friendly ones. And just in case the blog platform you use has funky dynamic URLs for each entry, you will want to ensure that the bots can crawl them easily or use a mod rewrite to create a good structure such as in the example.
9) Make sure your blog is mobile-friendly. It’s been over a year since Google revealed that more people use the search engine on their mobile phones than on desktop. And for all those valuable search queries being done on mobile, Google displays the mobile-friendly results first. This is yet another example of Google heavily favoring mobile-friendly websites, which has been true ever since the algorithm updates of April 2015 and March 2016 . Notice how the mobile-friendly examples are listed first when I search for the best restaurants in Fort Myers on my phone. In fact, there are zero search results that aren’t mobile-friendly on the first page of my search results. While responsive design and mobile-friendly websites have always been important for user experience, they’re becoming more and more important for SEO as well. So if you haven’t been focusing on improving your mobile experience, you’d better prioritize it now, or your search rankings could suffer.
If your website uses responsive design, your blog pages will only have one URL instead of two different ones– for desktop and mobile, respectively. This helps your post’s SEO because any inbound links that come back to your site won’t be divided between the separate URLs. Any SEO power you gain from these links will be centralized, helping Google more easily recognize your post’s value and rank it accordingly.
Pro tip: What search engines value is constantly changing.
10) Use Google’s Search Console. Google’s free Search Console contains a section called the Search Analytics Report . This report helps you analyze clicks from Google Search, and it’s useful to determine which keywords people are using to find your blog content.
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