Are blogs still a thing?
If you are in the content production space, you know the importance of creating content to nurture your existing clients, reach an even wider range of audiences and generate leads. But in order to do that, people must actually see and be aware of your content.
So, how do you ensure that your blog ranks high on search engines? The answer: search engine optimization (SEO).
On a scale of 1-5, what’s your experience level with SEO?
If you answered anything other than a 5 or if you’re looking for answers to some of your biggest SEO and blog creation questions, there might be a few things we can show you.
We met up with our content strategist, Sabina Hahn, and she walked us through some key points you can’t miss when you’re writing and building content. Gone are the stressful days when it comes to keywords, blog creation, or SEO.
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“No matter how niche or mainstream your market is, great content remains a significant focus for SEO.” Kristopher Jones, Founder of LSEO
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of utilizing specific tactics to optimize the probability of your website's ranking on search engines, improving your website's ranking on search results, and increasing the number of visitors to your website.
Why is Blog Optimization So Important?
If you want to know how to create a successful blog, optimizing is essential to making sure that your content gets in front of the right people.
Blog optimization has the ability to:
- Generate more organic traffic
- Rank content higher in search results
- Create a better user experience
How to Begin Writing a Blog
1. Use Keywords That are Relevant to Your Business and Audience
Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about.
For example, if you are writing a blog post about running, your keywords might be:
- Running shoes
- Running trails
- Shoe store
Long-tail keywords are more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point of purchase or when they’re using voice search.
- Beginners guide to marathons
- Best affordable running shoes
- Easy hiking trails near me
Keywords are used to connect readers to content they are needing information from. Audience-driven content is key to ranking high in search engine results pages (SERPs), so answering questions and offering solutions that help searchers with their pain points will signal to Google your content answers in search queries.
Remember: Google’s #1 goal is populating content that satisfies search intent.
But don’t focus on writing just for the keyword.
Cramming a bunch of keywords into your blog makes it hard to read and looks spammy; and this will actually hurt your rankings. This is called “keyword stuffing.”
According to the developers at Google, "keyword stuffing" is the practice of filling a web page with keywords (usually out of context) in an attempt to rank your website higher in Google search results.
To avoid hurting your chances of ranking high on SERPS, make sure to only place keywords where they make logical and contextual sense.
2. Place Keywords and Variations Strategically Throughout Your Content
Aside from placing keywords in the body of your copy, place keywords in other areas of your blog such as the following:
- Link anchors
- Photo alt text
- Meta descriptions
As well as in places that make contextual sense – again, don’t keyword stuff!
Remember, poor keyword usage can hurt your rankings – Google knows when you haphazardly place keywords.
Strategically placing keywords throughout your content helps with SEO and indexing because it gives search engines and searchers insight into your content and whether it matches search intent or not.
3. Write for Readability
Writing and checking for readability allows search engine bots to crawl and index your web pages better. If your content can’t be easily crawled, bots won’t be able to effectively present your blog in front of your target audiences.
And if your audience has a hard time reading your blog, they might click off too soon before they read through your entire article.
Here are some things to keep in mind when writing your articles:
- Active vs Passive Voice: Active voice is when the subject of the text is the doer of the verb while passive voice is when the subject is being affected by the verb. Neither is grammatically wrong, but using active voice makes your writing more concise and less wordy.
Active voice: Sam threw the ball.
Passive voice: The ball was thrown by Sam.
- Use correct grammar and spelling: Not only will search engines fail to index your content properly but using incorrect grammar might make your readers perceive your content as unreliable or inaccurate. To prevent this, have colleagues or designated copyeditors review your article or use grammar and spelling checker tools such as Grammarly.
- Be succinct but thorough: The fewer words you use to convey your message, the more effective it will be for search engine ranking and audience comprehension. Remember that featured snippets on Google are short, yet informative.
- Keep paragraphs and sentences short: People searching want information quickly and they will look to sites that can deliver them the information they need without all the fluff.
4. Use Headers
Using headers can effectively organize your content in easy-to-digest sections but also improve:
- Click-through rate
- Relevance in search
- SEO ranking
Along with writing a great hook, make sure you keep it to 60 characters or less. If your title is longer than 60 characters, you run the risk of it being cut off in the search results.
In regards to body headers, keep in mind to use headings appropriately.
Let’s take a look at a few different types of heading styles.
The title tag is the first headline of the page and shows up as the headline seen by Google and searchers in the SERP. It’s intended to let both Google and searchers know exactly what the page is about.
H1 Header Tag
The H1 header does not typically show up in search engine results, but it appears within the web page itself. The H1 Header tag should be used as your main headline (or title) at the top of the page, be sure that it includes your keyword. You should only use one H1.
Subheadings are the section headings you use to structure your content in a way that makes it scannable and easy to digest. All of your H2-H6s should be relevant and use keywords when appropriate.
5. Use Internal and External Linking
What are Internal Links?
Internal links are any links from one page on your website to another page on your website.
Using internal links helps drive traffic to other parts of your website and pushes your readers to stay on your site longer.
What are External Links?
External links are hyperlinks that go to any domain other than the domain/website the link exists on. These could be links in your content that lead to other websites for source credit or further reading. External links could also be links on other websites that lead to your website.
Using external links that go to other websites shows your audience that you value putting valuable information in front of them. Additionally, it can also help foster relationships with other bloggers
External links leading to your website are seen by search engines as a vote of confidence, ranking your content higher on SERPs.
The more users you get to click on your links, the greater chances are to get better rankings.
What Is Achor Text?
Anchor text is the underlined highlighted text that includes a link that people click on to. The anchor text you choose should be succinct and relevant to the page you’re linking to.
What do Internal Links do?
- Direct users from your website to another page on your website
- Pages that have internal links rank higher on search engines
- Helps readers to navigate through your website
What do External Links do?
- Directing users away from your website to another website
- Getting backlinks to your site from other websites increases your rankings
- Help Google to understand that content is credible
Get your Blog Creation
6. Create High-Quality and Helpful Content
Publishing Useful and Relevant Content
Not only does publishing useful content help build topical authority, but providing relevant information for your readers can:
- Motivate website visitors to stay longer
- Generate high CTR (click-through rate)
- Help generate backlinks
- Help target desired keywords
- Enhance user experience
9 Steps when Publishing a Blog
These are 9 non-negotiable steps when it comes to publishing a blog.
1. Optimize your URLs
Well-optimized URLs give people and search engines a quick way to understand what the page is about.
Let’s take a look at some best practices. Your URL should:
- Describe your content so searchers and search engines understand what it’s about
- Include keywords
- Use hyphens to separate words
- Use lowercase letters
- Be short
- Be static
2. Write Accurate Meta Descriptions
A meta description is an HTML element that gives a brief summary of a web page. A page's meta description shows up in the SERP under the title tag and is meant to give the searcher an idea of the content on your page and whether or not it’s relevant to them.
3. Use Alt Text for All Photos
Alternative text (alt text) is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image doesn’t load on a user's screen. It’s also the text that screen-reading tools will use to describe images to readers who are visually impaired.
There are a few reasons why you should add alt text to all of your blog photos. Alt text strengthens the message of your pages with search engines, allowing pictures to turn up in the image search results or in the image pack that shows up at the top of certain search results which can drive more organic traffic to your site.
Alt text also makes your content provide a better user experience for differently-abled readers and people who may not have the bandwidth to load images.
Alt text should:
- Describe the image and be specific
- Add content that's related to the content topic
- Be 125 characters or less
- Not start with “picture/image of”
- Use keywords sparingly if it makes sense in context
4. Correctly Formatting Headers
Your headers should be formatted as HTML heading tags in your website’s text editor rather than just making them larger/bolded text. This makes your website easier for search engines bots to crawl and index webpages, and understand content/structure of the page.
5. Make Sure Links Open in a New Tab
Making sure that your links open in a new tab allows readers to explore the link without having to continually hit the back button and losing their place on your original page.
6. Use Blog Tags Strategically
Blog tags make it easier for your website visitors to navigate your blog and find the content they’re looking for more easily, and it helps you group and organizes content at a high level.
This means creating tags that are unique but can encompass multiple topics instead of creating one-off tags.
Also, think about your blog tags strategically and create unique ones that avoid overlap.
Blog tags aren't necessarily crawlable for Google, but the pages that they create are. So, if you have one blog that falls into four different tags, and they're all very similar, then it comes up as duplicate content on your site, which will hurt you.
7. Post Consistently
Google likes fresh and useful content. Sites that publish blog articles on a consistent basis have, on average, 434% more indexed pages than sites that don’t publish regularly.
Posting consistently not only increases traffic and time on site, but having more quality pages for search engines to index signals that your site is credible and trustworthy.
The amount you should post relies a lot on the size of your company and what the team can handle.
“The frequency of blog posts depends on what's best for your company. Smaller businesses have found comfort and success posting one to four times a week, while larger companies can push out daily and, sometimes, multiple daily posts.”- Kayla Carmicheal, HubSpot
8. Optimize your Content Consistently
All content will experience organic search plateau and decay phases, which means posts will lose traffic for various reasons. But, refreshing content decreases decay, which helps you grow your total traffic with less effort than creating content from scratch.
Google factors “freshness” into its rankings which includes existing pages that have been refreshed, so regularly optimizing your content is an easy way that you can rank higher on SERPs. There is no hard and set answer for how often you should refresh your content, but every six to twelve months is a good starting point.
9. Promote Content to Drive Traffic
Taking a look at your current social media platforms will help provide guidance on how to promote your blog. Also, remember to repurpose your well-performing content for added exposure.
You don’t need to promote on every single platform, but it’s important to choose one that best meets your needs and goals. Here are some questions to consider when choosing where to promote your content:
- Which of your current platforms perform the best?
- Which allow you to pay for advertisements?
- Which have the best engagement?
- Where are your customers spending the most time on?
If your buyer persona consists of content creators, you might want to promote your content on Instagram or TikTok.
If your product or services cater to moms, consider promoting your content on Facebook.
Social media does not directly impact SEO, but it does:
- Build trust and customer loyalty
- Drive brand awareness and exposure
- Indirectly helps boost your online visibility and traffic
The primary goal of any blog post should be to engage your audience and improve the overall value of your blog. These best practices, when kept in mind, will help ensure that your blog is search engine optimized and is easily found by your target audience.
SEO Optimization Q&A
Click the question that you want to be answered and we will guide you to the answer. These questions and answers came from the webinar that we hosted on Best Blog Publishing Practices to Improve your SEO.
- How to increase visibility on a topic that’s widely discussed?
- Beginner skills in boosting your SEO
- Is it okay to keyword stuff?
- Could a competitor analysis through SEMrush help someone figure out what their backlinks are?
- Is there a sweet spot when you're looking at keywords where you want to aim for?
- How in-depth does your alt text have to be?
- Why should you use just one or two tags?
- How often should we be updating our content?
- Any specific SEO tips to use when posting or promoting podcasts?
1. Do you have any suggestions on how to increase visibility when discussing a topic that's widely discussed and written on how to turn a topic that's already been written about into something that's your own?
A: “With something that's really high difficulty, or has a ton of content out there, it's going to be way harder to rank these. You're going to need backlinks, you're going to need a really high site authority score and all the stuff that goes into ranking. When it's a very popular topic, for example, employee retention and attraction, it's a huge topic right now, with all of the turnover, you want to find a long-tail keyword that is related to your business. For example, we have a client who has a lot of professional services that they give small companies and part of that is human resources. Instead of just going after employee retention, it's how employee handbooks help with employee retention because they help companies write employee handbooks. It's finding a niche, longtail keyword, or cluster of keywords that people are looking for, but maybe had lower search volume, but the difficulty is also going to be way lower. It's finding those subcategory topics that you can write about and you have expertise about, versus trying to go after something that's got 88%, keyword difficulty, and 3000, 4000 monthly search volume. It's finding those niche keywords.
2. Are there any beginner skills, like how you get started in boosting your SEO?
A: It's such a wide concept and it’s a process of trial and error. To start, go back to the drawing board and make sure that your targeted keywords are relevant to your business and relevant to the people that you're looking at. I love using SEMrush because it'll tell you search intent, like if it's navigational, if it's people ready to make a purchase, or if people are looking for a specific site page. Making sure whatever keywords that you're targeting matches where that person's at in their user journey. If they're looking for something that's strictly informational and you're creating content that's like, “here's what we do and how we fix it and why we should be your company of choice why you should buy from us,” then it's probably not going to be super helpful for them because they're still in the beginning phases of “well, how how do I get rid of algae in my pool,” and they're like, “pay us we're a pool cleaning service.” It needs to match what your searchers are looking for and their understanding level at that point. You don't want to jump the gun and be like, “here's our stuff.” And they're just like, “I don't know what I'm doing yet.”
3. Google always says not to keyword stuff and my competition absolutely still does this in 2022 and they're crushing it. Is that just a fluke?
A: With SEO keywords aren't the only thing now that it has to do with. It could have to do with the backlinks that they're getting, and the sites that are linking to them, and their authority score. It has a ton of different factors and I think you would be doing yourself a disservice to keyword stuff. Obviously, you want to look at your competitors and what they're ranking for and the keywords they're targeting, but if you want to target those same words, you want to be better than them. You don't want to just regurgitate what they're doing. It could have way more to do with other factors rather than just the keywords.
4. Could a competitor analysis through SEMrush help someone figure out what their backlinks are?
A: Yeah, you can see where your competitors are getting linked to. You can see all that in SEMrush. I highly recommend it as a tool. You could spend days and not even scratch the surface.
5. Is there a sweet spot when you're looking at keywords where you want to aim for?
A: A lot of trial and error and just understanding what your people are looking for, what unique perspective you can give to the topic. And that's where talking to your subject matter experts in your company really comes in handy. They're the people that understand what you do on a very intimate level. Then you talk to your salespeople because they know what your customers do and need help with on an intimate level. And then making sure that marketing, sales and leadership are all in a really sweet conjunction so you know exactly what keyword group that you should be targeting and looking at and creating content around. It's kind of a three ring circus of things. It's not just looking at keywords, it's finding the keywords that make sense. And then writing content around those sweet spots and making sure it matches intent, and pain points and all this stuff that we've been talking about.
6. [About alt text] For inclusivity is it a better example of to say a student rather than a girl or people instead of women like, which is better? If it is a woman sitting on a park bench for tea it’s obviously a student. How is it better to explain somebody? How in depth do you need to go?
A: I would be as specific as possible because you have to imagine if you don't have the Wi Fi to load an image and you want to understand what that is, it makes way more contextual sense in my mind to say student because then it takes all of the contextual elements of a student. She probably has a backpack. She's probably on a laptop. She's probably reading a book. Be as specific as you can get to what is happening. I’m not about ranking (woman vs student) but student probably encapsulates the vibe a little better than just “woman sitting on park bench with laptop.” [Instead,] “students studying on a park bench with her laptop and a book.” You can use “her” to denote gender.
7. Why should you use just one or two tags?
A: One-off tags first are tags that you will never use again to describe another blog. They usually live at the top of your blog, or depending on what hosting service is. For ours, they sit at the top and people can drop down and say, “oh, I want to learn more about buyer personas.” Then they'll get linked to this page with just a catalog of everything we've tagged as buyer buyer personas. You want to avoid one-off tags. Say we wrote a blog about buyer’s questions to ask during your buyer persona interviews, and we tagged it, “Questions to Ask” and then we never used it again. It's just a little page on your website that has really no value. Then it gets really messy in those little clusters. So people don't really know what to look at and what to choose. So that's one-off tags. And then you want to limit your tagging to two to three because if you're writing a blog that covers more than two topics that you typically write about, then it's probably trying to do too much.
8. How often should we be updating our content?
A: It depends on your industry, your search traffic and how quickly things change in your niche. Some people say you should do it every two weeks, other people say it can be every couple of months. It should match whatever your internal bandwidth is. If you're a really small marketing team, you should be trying to balance fresh new content that you're writing and then content that you're optimizing, and it just needs to match what helps your bandwidth and your cadence. Definitely don't go longer than a year without touching something but you don't have to go back a month later and be like, “Oh, my God, I have to update this.” So it depends on how big your team is and how much time you have to do it.
9. Any specific SEO tips to use when posting or promoting podcasts?
A: With podcasts, what we do for a couple of people is we get those transcripts edited and then we post them on the blog as its own content because obviously, that's a lot of really rich information that then lives as text on your website.
If people want to look at the transcript, you can link to that. And then it gets people on your website, listening to the podcast, and skimming through the content. If they don't want to sit there and listen for 48 minutes, they can just Command + F to find what they're looking for. That's also a really, really, really good way to repurpose content. We probably do this every month for a client, we take something they've talked about in a podcast and we create an ebook, or recreate a series of blog posts. It's a really rich medium for creating content that then can get a ton of mileage, so you're maximizing the effort that you're putting into those things. Publishing, I would say, put it on your blog with the embed code, the speaker details, maybe an outline of what you guys talk about with timestamps, and then your full transcript. We use otter AI, but then we have a really nice lady on Upwork that we work with who goes through and edits for flow and gets rid of filler words. Otter AI is a good option for AI-generated transcripts, but then you probably want someone to have that human touch to go in and edit it. And you have full capability of editing within otter AI. It's a little painstaking, but if you're a one man team, and you don't want to outsource it, it's easy to use.