You’ve got the writing chops. Just this morning you caught yourself aggressively nodding in self-admiration at your latest blog post. Forwarding a particularly witty piece to your mom for praise is not beyond you.
It feels good.
But as a writer in the digital age, you’re also responsible for producing content that potential customers or subject-matter enthusiasts can actually discover – and the key is to write blogs with SEO in mind.
What the heck is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.”
(You might know that already, but bear with us here.)
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing try their darndest to retrieve the most relevant results for whatever someone types into that magic search box. Smart SEO strategies help bump your web page toward the top of the “natural” or “unpaid” search results, making your post more visible.
Think of it like this…
Google built a magical robot that scans content on the World Wide Web and files it in a super-duper powerful card catalog (the fancy kind). SEO makes it easier for this robot to turn up the best results by telling him what your content is all about.
Okay, so how do you keep the magical robot happy so that readers can find your insanely valuable content?
1. Win with quality
Provide your target audience with quality content on a subject you both care about. Useful, unique, and authoritative information results in people sharing, commenting, and linking to your posts, which earns you brownie points with Google.
In fact, Google confirmed in 2016 that quality content and links to your site are the top two factors in determining search engine rank. These factors go hand in hand – the latter won’t happen if your content’s no good!
When brainstorming your next juicy blog topic, ask yourself these questions:
- What information gaps exist?
- How can I fill them?
- Will this be valuable to my target audience?
- Am I deceiving my audience?
- Is this credible and engaging?
If you’re going to start anywhere, it’s quality – otherwise, you might not get much more than a participation trophy.
2. Research keywords, but don’t stop there
Drink some caffeine, grab your favorite pen (or pencil, or eagle feather quill), and do a good old-fashioned brainstorm. What words or phrases best describe your blog’s topic? Narrow your list down to one or two keywords or keyword phrases with relevance and strong search volume.
This’ll give your post and optimization efforts focus. Consider long-tail keywords, too – these hyper-targeted phrases of three or more words will drive less traffic overall, but more qualified visitors.
How do you research keywords, exactly?
Use Google’s free keyword planning tool to spark keyword ideas and gauge the ferocity of search volume and competition. Google Trends is also helpful to get a quick look at the popularity of terms and related queries by category, location, and time. (There are loads of other tools out there, but we give these a double thumbs-up if you’re just getting your feet wet.)
This is only part of the equation, though. It’s not just about getting keyword variations lined up.
You need to understand your target audience – their goals, motivations, and needs – and target keyword phrases that align with user intent. In other words, figure out what your readers will query. Google isn’t going to return the same result for the search, “where to buy a spaceship” versus “how to build a spaceship.” (We checked – and we still haven’t found a reliable spaceship for sale!)
Search engines work hard to satisfy user intent, so you should, too. Your keyword and content strategies should take your audience personas and their intent into account.
3. Use keywords naturally
Sprinkle in keywords, phrases, and related word variations, but keep the language organic. Google is smart – it’ll understand context and takeaways without being bashed over the head by keywords! It’ll actually penalize you if you stuff your post with the same keywords, too.
(Plus, you’ll sound pretty darn silly.)
For starters, try popping keywords into these places:
- Title (aka headline): Google only displays the first 65 characters or so of your title on the search engine results pages (SERPs), so keyword inclusion at the beginning of your headline is crucial to establishing relevancy – especially for readers! Even so, don’t forego catchy titles – you still want to attract and motivate peeps to read.
- In-Article: Incorporate keywords throughout headers and body text. If you focus on addressing your reader’s needs, keywords have a way of naturally landing where they need to be. Funny how these work out when you put quality first, right?
- Post URL: Give each post a unique URL that contains relevant keywords. Separate words with hyphens and remove unimportant articles like “a” and “the.” (Tip: your blogging platform might do this for you already!)
- Internal and External Links: Search engines give extra consideration to linked text, so it’s beneficial to include keywords as part of or next to hyperlinks.
- Image File Name: You know that old idiom, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, that’s only true on the web if you tell the search engine what to “see” with keyword rich text. When you upload your images, resist the temptation to keep default names like “IMG0005.jpg.” Instead, make names descriptive, like “Octopus-wearing-cowboy-hat.jpg.”
Remember, whatever you do, keep it au naturel. Write for humans, and the robots will understand!
4. Write scannable text
Sorry to break it to you, but that perfect verb you agonized over may go unnoticed – skimming is all the rage online, and has been for decades.
Experiment with ways to make your post easy for humans and robots to scan.
- Highlight keywords
- Organize with headings and subheadings
- Bullet and number lists
- Break up text with images and GIFs
- Box out quotes or tweetable tidbits
- Use white space
- Focus on one idea per paragraph
- Keep it conversational
In the age of information overload, you’re competing for attention. Be succinct, engaging, and most importantly, ORIGINAL. If you drop some enlightening info on readers, they’ll not only read your post – they’ll want to share it!
5. Length matters (sort of)
Pay attention to post length, as Google values in-depth and informational (aka quality) content. As a general guideline, 300 words is widely considered the minimum, whereas posts in the 700-2500 word range signal more subject-matter depth and can get a little more search engine love.
Don’t feel like word count is your first priority, though! Write as many words as needed – no more, no less – to clearly communicate information to your intended audience.
If your audience is typically time-strapped, a series of shorter, focused posts are the way to go. If your audience requires in-depth perspective, opt for a longer format. Again, know your audience and customize your content to accommodate their lifestyle.
5. Market it
Yes, high-quality content, when optimized properly, should drive traffic to your blog. However, it’s not a “set it and forget it” kind of business. Give your posts a little rocket fuel with proper distribution and publicity.
That means getting your social hustle on.
Don’t assume that because you launched a post into social cyberspace that everyone caught it (or cared). Distribute your posts across your social channels!
Figure out creative ways to repackage and distribute your content to existing and new readers.
- Experiment with post times, lead-in text, images, and social channels to understand what is most effective for you.
- Instead of publishing your social media updates just once, use an automation tool to cycle distribution (ahem, we know a eight-armed cephalopod that’s good for that!).
- Consider putting a few bucks towards paid promotions. For a small budget, you can boost your Facebook posts and target niche audiences.
- If Instagram jives with your audience, take advantage of the visual platform by building out a killer, on-brand feed. Include your blog link in your bio and post descriptions. If followers love your ‘Gram content, their loyalty will carry through to your other platforms.
View this post on Instagram
You all know how obsessed I am with frosted animal cookies, but I've always wanted other animals like unicorns and flamingos! Soooo we're making unicorn frosted animal cookies on the blog today!!!! 💕🦄🍪 And let me tell you that the homemade version of these is AH-mazing! 🙌🏻 (Link in profile)
Let your authority be known on social in more ways than one.
Make sure to backlink and refer to other awesome content you’ve produced. You’re the expert, right? Keep ‘em hooked and navigating deeper and deeper into your library. Right when they are about to say, “Tell me more,” provide another resource for them to peruse!
Position yourself as a subject-matter authority by contributing knowledge bombs to other websites and blogs, too. Use this opportunity to backlink to valuable content on your blog and to reach a new and qualified audience. (Make sure to include a byline or short bio, so you get credit for your brainy guest post.)
Alrighty…ready, steady, SEO!
What SEO techniques work for YOU?
What tools are helpful?
Any timesaving tips?
Which blogs keep you coming back for more?
Let us know in the comments below!