Don’t let your hard blog work go to waste. Follow this step-by-step guide to optimize your content for search engines.
Photo by cottonbro
There’s a lot of content out there online. Just having a blog on your website and publishing blog posts is not a guarantee for an increase in web traffic or sales. If only it was that easy, right?
So how can you ensure that the time you’re spending creating a blog is worth your investment? In this article, I’ll walk you through my 10-step strategy for optimizing blog content for search engines. Follow these 10 tips and you can help turn your blog into a traffic generator for your business.
1. Know Your Audience
You can’t create a successful blog if you don’t know exactly who you’re creating this blog for. Having a full understanding of your target audience and the type of topics they want to read about is crucial for creating an effective blog.
I’d argue that it’s impossible to have a successful blog without spending the necessary time upfront researching and understanding your target audience. To help you with this step, check out my article on building a research-backed profile of your target audience called a buyer persona.
I recommend this as a great place to start. Once you’ve developed a buyer persona and know more about your target audience, you can start generating more targeted and high-value content ideas.
2. Establish Your Content Pillars
Blogging should never feel random or like you’re picking topics out of a hat. You want to have a strategy around the types of content you’re posting.
So, once you have a solid understanding of who your target audience is, the next step is to brainstorm the content needs of that target audience and establish your content pillars. In other words, what topics are you going to cover in this blog?
There are a lot of ways to go about this, but a great place to start is to ask yourself these basic but important questions:
What do you want to be known for?
What do you want people to come to your blog to learn about?
What are the most frequently asked questions you get in your business/industry?
What do your prospective customers or target audience need help with?
What do you wish people knew more about in your industry?
What makes you different from your competitors?
What is a knowledge gap that your target audience has when it comes to your product or service? How can you educate them?
Use the answers to these questions to start formulating a list of broad topics that you want to cover in your blog. Then, once you’ve established your content pillars, you can start brainstorming content within each topic area.
Starting at the topic level with content pillars and then using those pillars to decide on specific blog topics gives direction and focus to your blog. This helps establish you and your business as a leader and go-to resource within a particular topic area vs. trying to cover too many topics all at once.
This is called topical relevance, and it’s important for SEO.
When you’re locked in on a topic and regularly posting content that covers that topic from head to toe, Google comes to understand that you’re the expert on the subject. This builds authority and authority is what gets you on page one of search results.
And here’s a pro tip: Keep your blog organized by categorizing your blogs according to these content pillars. This helps your readers navigate and find blog content once it’s live on your site.
3. Research High-Value Keywords
So you’ve created a list of topics you want to be known for and now it’s time to start tackling these topics by creating blog content. But before you start writing a blog, the next step is keyword research.
Within the topics you want to write about, take the time to find high search volume and low competition keywords or search terms that are relevant to your audience. There’s also some value to focusing on long-tail keywords, or more targeted keywords with a lower search volume and competition.
Image source: Moz Keyword Research Matrix
Use your keyword research to guide the topic areas you cover in your blog and include those keywords in your content. But keep in mind that keyword stuffing is discouraged. Use keywords to guide the topic and direction of your piece, and incorporate them where it makes sense in your blog’s title, headers, URL, alt image text, meta description, and body copy.
Need help finding keywords? Head to my article for suggestions on free keyword research tools you can use to get started.
4. Understand the SERP Landscape for That Keyword
Once you find the keywords you want to focus on, next up is understanding the SERP landscape (or search engine results page) for those targeted keywords. In other words, what are the articles you’re competing with to rank on page one?
Open up an incognito window and do a Google search of your keyword. Read through the articles that pop up and get a sense of what’s currently ranking for this keyword.
Your blog should not be a regurgitation of information that already exists online. Offer a new perspective or a new take on the topic. Or present the information in a better or more helpful way than the articles currently ranking on page one.
You don’t want to just repeat what’s already been said on the topic because you’ll have a lot harder time competing for space on page one when there’s not much difference between your blog and the one that’s already ranking.
You also want to create content that matches the format you’re seeing on page one of search results. In other words, if most of the top 10 search results for that keyword are listicle articles (“Top 10 Reasons You Need X” or “8 Ways to Do Y”), your blog should also be a listicle article. Or in this “how to do a squat” example, most articles are step-by-step guides featuring a video tutorial.
This is actually where being unique could hurt instead of help your ranking potential. Google is literally telling you that searchers for this particular search term want a step-by-step how-to article, so give the readers what they want.
5. Focus On Quality, Not Quantity
Okay, so you’ve done keyword research and narrowed in on your topic. Now it’s time to write your blog. The key here is to spend time crafting a well-written blog that isn’t littered with grammatical errors, sales-y language, or false information.
You want people to find, read, and enjoy the content you’re putting out because when people enjoy reading your content they come back for more, they share your content on social media, and they build trust in you or your brand.
And ultimately that’s what Google is looking for when ranking content for search results. In other words, a high-quality article has a better chance of ranking on Google than a poorly written or rushed piece of content. This means your time is better spent focusing on quality vs. quantity, even if it means that you’re not publishing a ton of content.
6. Cite Reputable Sources & Feature Industry Experts
Speaking of quality, linking out to reputable and high-quality sources is a signal to Google about the quality of your blog. Google doesn’t want to send its searchers to a website offering false or misleading information. By citing, linking out, and using trustworthy sources throughout your blog you build more credibility in the eyes of search engines (and your reader!).
What also helps build credibility is publishing content written or reviewed by industry experts. For example, if you’re a company selling healthy snacks, it boosts your SEO to feature a nutritionist or dietitian who reviewed, wrote, or provided quotes for your content. Or if you’re a fitness business, hire writers who have a fitness or personal training background and include their bio at the bottom of the page.
7. Include Internal Links
Internal links are links out from your blog to other pages of your site. You want to include internal links throughout your blog.
There are two big reasons why:
Internal links give Google a sense of how this piece of content relates to other pieces of your content on your site. This builds a better picture for Google so the bots can better understand what your page is all about and rank your content accordingly.
Internal links also keep readers engaged on your site vs navigating away. By offering them a next step you provide a guided path for your readers so they’re engaged with your content and far more likely to enter your sales funnel.
So as you’re writing, make sure you’re linking out to other relevant blog posts and content on your site as well as your sales page.
8. Write a Catchy & Keyword-Focused Headline
Although we spend so much time thinking and focusing on the content of our blogs, the sad reality is that most people won’t make it past the title or headline of your blog.
That’s why it’s the most important piece of copy out of all the words in your blog. It’s the first thing a reader sees when deciding whether or not they want to read your piece of content. So not only should you be featuring a well-researched keyword but make your headline catchy. Use numbers, offer a how-to, or ask a provocative or thought-provoking question.
9. Incorporate Easy-to-Read Formatting
Easy-to-read formatting is important for all readers that enter your blog. But it’s especially important for those I like to call “skimmers”.
Sadly, no matter how well-written your blog is, there is always going to be a large segment of your audience who will click on your blog but won’t read it from start to finish. These Skimmers want information fast and they don’t want to spend a lot of time getting that information. Formatting your blog so the key points are quickly communicated is going to be crucial for the Skimmer.
If your blog is one giant wall of text you can guarantee that readers will quickly leave, resulting in an incredibly high bounce rate for that piece of content. And a higher bounce rate signals to Google that your blog is not helpful or high quality because clearly, people aren’t finding value once they click in.
But by spending some time considering not just the content, but the formatting of that content you can increase your reader’s time on page, help them get access to the answers they’re looking for, and increase your chance of ranking on Google.
Some easy-to-read formatting suggestions include:
Short paragraphs (no more than three sentences)
Effective H2/H3 headers to break up your content into sections
A short summary or bulleted list highlighting key points at the top of the blog (so if they read nothing other than this, they’ll still get the information they need)
Graphics like photos, tables, charts, or videos
Ask yourself: If someone skims through your blog, can they still get a lot of the information that they need, or are all the major points buried in your content?
10. Build a Backlink Strategy
The SEO work isn’t finished once you publish your blog. Now that it’s published, you want people to find this blog, read it, build trust in your brand, and purchase your services. So not only should you be sharing this blog through your own channels like social media and email, but you want other websites to share this blog.
This is what’s called backlinks. Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. This helps generate more traffic to your content by getting your blog in front of a different audience.
Image Source: Backlinko
It also helps build credibility. If a site that Google already considers trustworthy links out to your blog, that’s a signal to Google that your site is trustworthy too. And when you have a lot of high-quality websites linking to your site, that’s the ultimate SEO link juice. In other words, the more high-quality backlinks you have, the more authority you build with Google.
When you write a high-quality blog, sometimes backlinks happen without any work on your end because people feel confident linking out to your blog and using your site as a resource. But you can’t just rely on a passive backlinking strategy.
You also need to play a more active role in building your backlink profile. And the best way to do that is to build and establish relationships with other businesses, websites, and blogs relevant to your niche.
Looking for help creating SEO-optimized blog content? Enroll in my free course for 10 easy steps to success:
Free Online Course: How to Optimize Your Blog for SEO
Video lessons on why blogs are important and 10 steps to optimize your blog for SEO
A printable blog checklist of all the elements to keep in mind for before, during, and after you write
Recommendations for free keyword research tools
Guide on How to Build a Buyer Persona