Search Engine Optimization and websites seem to be like the old saying,
“Which came first the chicken or the egg?”
The problem is… SEO is the blueprint and your blog is the house. And how can you build your dream house without knowing where everything goes?
Don’t get me wrong, many folks optimize their sites after they are up and running and why SEO for blogs is such a hot topic. Unfortunately, SEO is often only prioritized when they realize they have no traffic.
Given the opportunity, I always, ALWAYS recommend starting with search engine optimization first.
What You'll Learn in This Post
The Benefits of Keyword Research
In-depth research needed for SEO gives you two valuable pieces of intel.
First, you know what keywords have search volume.
Many people think they know what keywords they should target. But let’s be honest, they are simply taking a shot in the dark. Either they choose keywords that are crazy competitive, giving a new website little to no chance of ranking.
Or, they choose keywords with no traffic. Believe me… there is no worse feeling than getting ranked #1 only to find out that your keyword phrase gets 0 searches a month.
If you remember nothing else, remember this. Search volume equals what people are looking for.
Sounds obvious, right?!?
The whole reason to do research is to find what topics and questions are resonating with potential visitors. Get this right and you attract traffic.
Secondly, keyword research allows you to strategically build your website. It is the very foundation you will build your house on.
It tells you which high volume keywords your site should go after and which secondary search words and phrases you will use for your categories.
And if done right, you will also end up with a list of long tail keywords that you can begin targeting to gain domain authority and build your search engine rankings.
Benefits of Blogs
I alluded in my introduction on the homepage that many marketers encourage business websites to add a blog to their sites.
Ever wonder why?
Blogs have several advantages besides fertile ground for SEO. A blog rich in content should:
1 – Educate customers about your industry
2 – Set you apart as an expert in your field
3 – Allow you to add value to the customers you serve
4 – Build trust with potential customers
5 – Collect emails from potential customers
6 – Deepen your relationships with existing customers
7 – Support your marketing efforts
8 – Ultimately get more clients and generate income
And that’s before we even begin to discuss the advantages of blogs for SEO. Those advantages include the ability to:
1 – Target long tail keywords
2 – Generate inbound links
3 – Create a hierarchy for hard to rank for keywords
4 – Keep your site fresh
5 – Increase social media shares
6 – Increase backlinks
Now that we know when and why, let’s discuss how.
SEO for Blogs
From your keyword research you should have uncovered dozens of potential blog posts to write. Each blog post should focus on a different primary long tail keyword.
A long tail keyword is a 3-4 word phrase that is relevant to your focused niche.
I recommend choosing a phrase that has a balance of search volume and ranking opportunity.
For example, if your site is new, I wouldn’t target “Social Media” as the keyword for your blog post. Yes, it has volume (over 550,000 searches a month) but it also has stratospheric competition (over 4.1 billion results in Google). Yeah, that’s not happening.
Instead choose a word that has good search volume and less than 50,000 competition pages. You will have to decide what search volume is acceptable to you. I recommend anything over 50/month.
Also, do not use the same targeted keyword or keyword phrase for multiple blog posts. Google is looking for highly relevant webpages for a given keyword. By targeting the same keyword over and over again, it sends conflicting signals to the search engine.
Now that you have chosen your relevant long tail keywords, it is time leave bolder size clues for the search engine.
When Google visits your website, it is reading the HTML code behind the page to determine the content and context of your posts. It is looking for clues that tell it how to rank your website and for what topic.
Our job is to make it super easy for Google to understand. Luckily there are several essential places we can include keywords to help Google out.
1 – Title Tag
The title tag tells potential visitors what your article is all about. If you have chosen a truly relevant keyword, it should be easy to incorporate it here.
Titles should be no longer than 70 characters, including spacing. If at all possible, but sure to place your keyword phrase at the beginning of your title. This gives both weight to your keyword and prevents Google from truncating it should you go over the 70 character recommendation.
You need to resist the urge to use a keyword more than once in your title or repeat variations. Search engines understand different variations of words, making this both unnecessary and potential counterproductive.
Over the years, search engines algorithms have become more advanced making them smarter than ever. You will be penalized if you over use or “stuff” keywords in either your title, description, or content.
Think of it this way… we want to sprinkle keywords, where appropriate to make sure search engines understand what our blog post is about. Remember, sprinkles are for winners! 😉
2 – Title URL
Another reason you will want to include your keyword in your page title, is that WordPress will automatically use for your page’s URL.
Using a tool such as Yoast SEO for blogs will give you additional control over naming your page URL, making sure it includes your keyword.
Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Here is where the struggle comes in. You also want your title to entice readers to click on your link.
If someone does a search for “social media marketing” they will receive 10 options to choose from. Once you get your post ranked, what is going to make them choose you?
It is definitely a balancing act to both use your keyword phrase in your title and make your title compelling.
Headline Analyzer is a tool that I use to help me craft the perfect post title. Keep in mind, it doesn’t focus on keywords, so you will need to determine where to give and take.
3 – Meta Description
The meta description is the excerpt that appears below your link in search engines. It gives further information to potential visitors about the content of your blog post.
This is a great place to not only include your keyword phrase but also possible synonyms.
Just like your title, your meta description needs to compel readers to click on your link and check out your blog.
The length of your meta description should be less than 300 characters. And again, be careful not to repeat keywords more than once.
4 – Headings
Headings are the H1, H2… H6 options that your text editor provides. These are also a great place to naturally incorporate keywords.
Be sure your primary keyword is included in your H1 heading.
Remember when I said how smart search engines have become? After collecting data from billions of websites, search engines know what words are often associated with topics. Search engines are looking for this hierarchy in the structure of your blog.
H1 should include the title or main topic of the page (and include your keyword). Then H2, H3… should support that main topic.
You should only ever have one H1 heading on a page.
Keep in mind that most WordPress themes automatically create H1 headings from the post title.
Having more than one H1 heading sends mixed signals to search engines. So be sure to take this in consideration when creating additional headings. Remember our job is to help search engines understand our content.
5 – Body / Content
It cannot be understated that content is king.
Research shows that websites that rank the highest have more content. They also receive more social shares.
If you have written your blog post with you long tail keyword in mind, it should be fairly easy to incorporate both synonyms of your keywords and supporting words into your text.
For example, if your post is about “Grilling the Perfect Hamburger” (hmmm, I must be hungry!), your content is most likely going to include words such as burger, patty, beef, temperature, heat, time, etc.
If your objective is to add value to the life of your visitors and you are eager to provide great content, your keyword phrase, synonyms, and supporting words will just happen.
Things to Note When Writing Your Content
Keyword Density is important, but perhaps not as crucial as it once was. Although no one knows if and what the magic percentage is, repeating a keyword too many times will most definitely get you penalized.
However, not using it enough may fail to signal to search engines that it is what your content is all about. To play it safe, I would stay below the recommend 2.5% suggested by Yoast SEO.
6 – Images
Images are another way we can signal to search engines what our blog post is about.
Although ALT tags where originally created for those with visual impairments, it is now another way we can optimize our pages for search engines.
Looking for bonus points?
Be sure to include your keyword phrase in your image file name. This is an often overlooked way to further optimize your site.
7 – Inbound Links
If you are looking to build relationships with your readers, your readers need to know what to expect from your content. Focusing your content and staying within your niche, is the easiest way to do this.
Long gone are the days when we could try to be all things to all people. There are just too many people and too many websites competing.
Your blog should have a focus, and that means a lot of your content will be related. This gives you the perfect opportunity to include inbound links from one blog post to another.
These links do two very important things.
First, it encourages your readers to stay on your site, reading additional content. This allows you to continue to build a relationship with your reader.
The length of time a visitor stays on your site also signals to Google just how relevant your content is. The longer they stay, the better your content must be, right!?!
Second, it helps search engine find other relevant pages on your site.
And the more relevant pages it finds that support your category keyword, the higher you will rank.
8 – Outbound Links
Outbound links are links you include to other websites. When I was a web designer, I always cautioned clients to use discretion when including outbound links. After working hard to get a visitors, the last thing you want to do is show them the door out.
Outbound links work in two ways.
First, the more backlinks you have to your site, the more Google trust your site as having value.
Backlinks are outbound links on other sites that link to your blog or website. con
When a website that has domain authority links to your blog, it actually passes some of that authority or “Google PageRank juice” to you.
Some believe this works to a minor degree in reverse. By linking to sites that have greater domain authority, you can pull some of that trust to your website.
Is it true? I don’t know.
But I do know that by linking to external websites that are relevant to the same targeted keyword, we give search engines one more clue to what our page is about.
When linking to other sites, be sure to click on the gear icon to the right. This will give you the option to “Open ink in a new tab.” That way your website will remain open, helping easily distracted visitors from forgetting where they started.
9 – Blog Categories
Although overlooked by many, old school SEO was as much about website architecture as it was on-page optimization.
In the past, it was not uncommon to organize webpages in topical folders, grouping similar webpages in each.
Today, it is no longer necessary to understand HTML to create a beautiful blog full of content. And trust me, it didn’t take me long to switch over all of my websites to WordPress, once I understood its power.
I tell you this, because WordPress, by default, creates a very flat site architecture. Meaning, everything ends up being one link away from your homepage.
While it is advantageous to minimize the number of vertical levels your site has, it can also restrict you from getting the most out of your search engine optimization.
This is where blog categories can help.
From your keyword research you should have a fairly good idea of what keywords you want to target.
If you remember, I recommended that blog posts target long tail keywords that have a search volume great than 50/month and less than 50,000 competing pages.
For categories, I recommend targeting short tail keywords (those with 3 words or less) that have a search volume greater than 100-200 searches a month and less than 300,000 competing pages.
These are more popular keywords that with time and consistency you will be able to rank for. This definitely deserves a post all to itself, but for now, here is how it work.
As you add blog posts, you will naturally be creating supporting documents to the more competitive, short tail keywords of your categories. All of your blog post and targeted long tail keywords will begin to work collectively.
As you continue to add blog posts to a category, you increase the relevance of that category, making it easier to rank for that keyword.
So spend some time strategically selecting your categories and then filling them with content rich blog posts.
There are many ways to optimize SEO for blogs. But before you start adding your keywords to titles, headings, and images, be sure you are spending the time to perform in-depth keyword research.
Everything else I have discussed here, revolves around knowing what your potential visitors and customers are search for.
Once you know that, you can deliver relevant content that not only meets their needs, but attracts more visitors and gets you ranked in search engines.
Are you interested in knowing how I go about keyword research? Looking for additional information, leave me a comment below.