If you do not optimize blog posts for SEO you are missing out on tremendous opportunities for organic traffic to your website.
I’d go as far to say if you are not optimizing your content, you are wasting your time writing it in the first place. If it can’t be found, why write content in the first place?
Without SEO, you could be losing thousands, even tens of thousands of eyeballs on your content, representing a tremendous lost opportunity. With all the competition out there for readers, it is vital your posts show up high in Google searches.
Most online experiences begin with a search engine, and nearly 75% of them use Google. In addition, the first five results of a Google search get 67.60% of all clicks, making search engine optimization crucial. Page two and three of the search results only get 5.59% of the clicks.
There are many factors that go into the effective optimization of a blog post, I will cover them all in this article. I will start with the debate of the ideal length of a blog post, I’ll also outline each of the optimization tactics you must implement if you want your blog posts to rank on page one of the search results. After that I will share with you why optimizing your blog posts is more critical than it’s ever been.
Does Blog Post Length Matter for SEO
You may have been taught that blog posts should be brief (300-500 words), but the truth is that the best-ranking articles in SEO are long. Google likes in-depth content and longer articles, you will never find a top ranked page that features a short article.
Generally, 1500-2000 (or more) words improves your Google search rankings, as long as you are writing high-quality content and of course, optimizing it for SEO. You will notice that my content marketing strategy always includes in-depth blog posts, just like this one.
Neil Patel a leading SEO expert said this: “The interesting part is that Google doesn’t prefer more content because it feels it is more valuable. It actually prefers content-rich sites because data shows you like it.
The other reason is, people are much more likely to link to in-depth content. Backlinks is another determining factor in how Google ranks your website and articles.
CoSchedule studied their own top-performing blog posts and their results showed that every one of their posts that ranked on the first page of Google was actually over 2,000 words —proving that creating longer and in-depth content, is something you should consider for your own content strategy.
Okay now that you know the ideal length of a blog post, let’s cover each place you must optimize your blog post if you want it to rank high in the search results.
10 Steps to Optimize Blog Posts for SEO
1. Optimize for Keywords
The first and perhaps most important part of an SEO strategy is optimizing your content for the right keyword phrase.
Make sure your keyword phrase is specific enough to narrow the results for those searching. For example, a keyword such as “digital marketing” yields more than seventy-eight million results! But what exactly is a user looking for? How could you rank for a term that’s so competitive? The short answer is, you can’t!
You need to choose keywords that are not too competitive and also choose a keyword phrase that is more specific.
For example, let’s say someone is looking for digital marketing help in a specific city, they may type in “digital marketing agency in Amsterdam” which yields only seven results or “digital marketing agency in London” which has 142,000 search results. Two very different scenarios and levels of competition.
It’s important to choose keyword phrases that are specific enough, and that are not too competitive. However, it’s also important to ensure there are enough searches for the keywords to make it worthwhile. The example of “digital marketing agency in Amsterdam” may have such low search results because the Dutch are likely searching for a phrase in the native language such as “digitaal marketing bedrijf Amsterdam”.
If you are not choosing the right keywords, or you are choosing keywords you can’t compete for, you will lose potential traffic to your website.
Have you looked at your Google Analytics lately? My Google Analytics report from last month shows that 66.14% of my website visitors were from an organic search. If I just relied on traffic from social media or other sources, look how many website visitors I would have lost out on.
Optimizing your content for keywords is vital, but to do it correctly, you’ll need to understand what keywords are best for your content. That means you’ll need to do some research before you begin writing. It’s also a good strategy to create a list of the keywords you want to rank for in Google, and be sure to check where you rank in search results regularly.
The best place to start your research is with the Google keyword planner.
2. Optimize Your Title (H1 Header)
The first and most important place to optimize your blog post is in the title, which is also known as the H1 header. The closer you put your keyword phrase to the beginning of the title, the more likely it is to rank high in Google’s results.
For example, this article’s title is “How to Optimize Blog Posts for SEO” and the keyword phrase I want to rank for is optimize blog posts for SEO.
3. Include Keywords in Subheaders (H2, H3)
It is important to make your blog posts easy to read by including different sections under headings or subheadings. In website language, these are called H2 or H3 headers, with H1 being the title of your article. You must optimize your blog post with at least one H2 header that includes your keyword phrase.
When breaking a blog post into sections or lists like this one, you will notice I started with the H2 header “10 Steps to Optimize Blog Posts for SEO” and then below that, each of the subheaders in the list of 1-10 are H3 headers, and many of them include the tags (secondary keywords) I want to be found for.
You should be strategic in using a list of keywords you want to be found for in as many of your subheaders as possible.
4. Include Your Keyword Phrase Throughout Your Blog Post
It’s also important to add your keyword phrase several times throughout your blog post. I’ve already discussed including it in your title (H1 header), in a subheader (H2 header) and when relevant it can also be included in H3 headers.
Next, you want to ensure that you have it throughout the body of your blog post. It is also important to include it in the first and last paragraph. When possible also hyperlink one of the mentions of the keyword phrase to another relevant blog post on your website.
5. Optimize Your Images
To make your blog post more visually appealing, you’ll want to include some images to it. Images are also important in optimizing your blog posts for SEO.
There are two critical aspects to optimizing your images. The first is to choose the right file name. For example, the image at the top of this article has the name of the article in it, I have named this image “Optimize-Blog-Posts-for-SEO,” which is primary keyword I have optimized this blog post for.
For any additional images, you include in your blog post, choose a file name that lets Google know what the image is about (and always think SEO).
The next thing you must do is add alt text which provides information to search engine crawlers, helping them to index an image properly.
Lastly, and also optionally, you can include a Caption for your image when relevant.
For example, in the image I added above with my Google Analytics results, I optimized the image like this:
Image Name: Optimize-Blog-Posts-For-SEO-Organic-Search
Alt Text: Report from Google Analytics on “how did you acquire your users this month”
Caption: My report from Google Analytics showing where my traffic came from last month
However, on the top image of this blog post that includes the title, I didn’t include a caption and I optimized it like this:
Image Name: Optimize-Blog-Posts-For-SEO
Alt text: How to optimize blog posts for SEO
It’s also important to optimize your images for file size. There are many free or low priced tools such as Kracken.io that will compress the size of your images so they don’t slow down your website.
6. Optimize the Meta Description of Your Blog Post
Meta descriptions are what show up as an excerpt when Google displays your page as a result to searchers. Your meta description is a short summary of what your blog post is about and it must include your primary keyword phrase in it.
If you do not add a meta description, Google will display a random snippet of your article, which may not be the message you want potential readers to see and could lower the search ranking for your blog post.
By correctly optimizing a meta description, you can ensure that Google won’t cut it off and end with “…” or end it in mid-sentence.
For example, see the meta description I wrote for my blog post on Facebook Usage is in Decline: An Opportunity for LinkedIn Users. Notice it includes the keyword close to the beginning of the meta description.
By correctly optimizing a meta description, you can ensure that Google won’t cut it off and end with “…” or end it in mid-sentence. Your meta description must be under 300 characters, but according to MOZ the ideal length is between 150-160 characters.
7. Add Tags / Keywords
In addition to optimizing your blog post for the primary keyword phrase you’ve selected, you will be using other keywords throughout your blog post. In WordPress, these are referred to as tags, I often refer to them as, secondary keywords. These are the additional keywords you want to optimize your blog post for. The same rules apply to these keywords, they should not be too competitive and they should be longer keyword phrases vs. just one or two words.
As an example, I would never be able to rank for the keyword SEO. So why use it if I can’t rank for it? I wouldn’t.
Instead, one the tags (secondary keywords) I selected for this article is: does blog post length matter for SEO.
8. Optimize the URL of Your Blog Post
If you have added your keyword into your title (H1 header) it will automatically be included in the URL of your blog post. Often, however, your title may be longer than you want the URL to be, and you have the opportunity to customize and shorten that URL.
For example, when I wrote a blog post on the LinkedIn SSI Score (Social Selling Index), I used this URL /Linkedin-SSI-Score/, making it easy for Google to index it for this exact search term.
In addition, I shortened it from what it would have been if I let WordPress use the title (it would have been /how-important-is-the-Linkedin-ssi-score/) and I focused more on the specific keyword I was optimizing the article for, LinkedIn SSI Score.
9. Include Internal and External Links in Your Blog Post
To increase the time spent on your website, and provide more value to your readers include links to other relevant blog posts on your website. The longer someone spends on your blog post and website, the higher it will rank in the search results.
Select relevant keyword phrases instead of just linking an article to a single word. You’ll notice in the example I used above regarding LinkedIn SSI Score, I hyperlinked that exact terms, versus linking it where I wrote “blog post” which would add no value at all.
You should also link to third-party websites when relevant. Learn more about internal and external links in this article by Yoast.
PRO TIP: Backlinks also known as Inbound links (IBL’s) are important for SEO because some search engines, especially Google, will give more credit to websites that have a good number of quality backlinks, and consider those websites more relevant than others in their results pages for a search query. The only way to get backlinks is to great high-quality content that people want to link to.
10. Optimize for Mobile
More and more users are viewing websites and blogs from their Smartphones, which means your posts must be mobile friendly. Google has been shifting to make the mobile version of your site their primary ranking factor. Put another way, a poor mobile site will hurt you, even if your desktop version works perfectly. Take Google’s free mobile-friendly test.
But having a responsive website alone isn’t enough because a truly responsive site is one whose content – text, images, videos, slideshows, etc. – are also optimized for mobile devices.
To optimize your site for mobile by adding AMP. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) enables your site to have fast page rendering and content delivery.
Check Your SEO With Yoast
Not sure if you have fully optimized your blog posts for SEO? I use Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress which shows you exactly how well your blog post is optimized and if it’s not, what you’ve missed.
It’s a super handy tool and helps a great deal. For example, recently I wrote an blog post about LinkedIn vs Xing (Xing is a popular German social network). My goal for this article was to rank on page one of Google. And I did, within a couple days of posting it.
Here’s a look at my Yoast SEO results for the LinkedIn vs Xing blog post. The only thing it could find wrong was my title was too short. Which clearly didn’t impact the search results and I had no desire to change it.
By reviewing the results Yoast provides when you upload your blog post, you can see anything you have missed, and how you can further improve the optimization of your blog post.
If you follow the ten steps I outlined above, use a plugin such as Yoast to double check your SEO before publishing, and select a keyword phrase that isn’t too competitive, you will see a significant, and immediate improvement in the search ranking of your blog posts.
Why is this is important? Search Reigns Over Social in SEO Battle
It now appears that social media’s reign as a top source of referred, inbound traffic to websites may be over. That’s according to new research from Shareaholic, which found a steep drop in visits from social media.
After studying the latest trends, Shareaholic concluded that “social media’s tenuous grip on being the top referral category is over.”
New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer recently published an article called The SEO versus Social Battle Has a New Winner, and in it, he listed four factors he believes are responsible for this change.
- Reduced Use of Social Overall – Edison Research found that Americans are actually using social media less, especially Facebook. And given that Facebook is far and away the largest social network, a decline there is significant.
- De-prioritization of Companies and Organizations in Social Algorithms – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all rolled out new algorithms in the past two years that fundamentally diminish exposure for company and organization content in favor of content published by individuals. This probably makes for a better, healthier stream of content, but it certainly impacts the number of clicks that social content can accrue to websites. Shareaholic data shows a 25.8 percent drop in Facebook-referred visits in one year.
- Less Exposure for Posts Containing Links – Some of the algorithm adjustments in social media have given more reach to video content and, to some degree, photos. Simultaneously, the algorithm gives posts containing links less priority. This also has an impact on click-through traffic.
- Search Indexing More Social Content – Search engines are doing a much better job of indexing social media content right on their SERPs, making it possible for consumers to click through from search, instead of going to a social network and clicking through from there. In the same period where Facebook-referred traffic dropped 25 percent, visits coming from Google increased 21 percent.
- This data clearly shows that social’s days as the number one driver of traffic are at an end and I don’t foresee them returning.
- Google is certainly working hard to stay in front, as any decline in their ability to drive traffic is almost an existential issue for them, financially. It would be wise to follow their cue and re-prioritize search in your overall digital marketing plan.
- Facebook, despite its steep decline as a traffic source, is still the top social referrer, but Pinterest is making huge gains. It’s now a clear number two in social and drives more traffic than every other non-Facebook social network combined.
- LinkedIn focuses on its business audience, which makes it relevant to only a subset of the population. But the newfound emphasis on content on LinkedIn makes me wonder if it will see a spike in its referred traffic in the next report, similar to what Instagram experienced in this study.
- It is very rare in business, technology, and marketing for a lost lead to be regained. What we’re witnessing currently in the fight between SEO and social media for website traffic referral preeminence is nearly unprecedented, and it should make you reconsider how you’re allocating your resources across the full sweep of your digital marketing.
Baer says for his own interactions, and the content his company creates at Convince & Convert, they’re putting more effort into LinkedIn than ever before, while pulling resources away from Facebook.
This data clearly shows that social’s days as the number one driver of traffic are at an end and I don’t foresee them returning.
Wrap Up: Optimizing Your Blog Posts for SEO
Although SEO is not complicated, it does involve more work. There’s a simple scorecard on who is doing the work. If you are showing up on page one of the search results, you are following these SEO tactics. Those who aren’t, are losing out on massive amounts of free traffic.
I would challenge you with this… if you are not willing to do the work to optimize your blog posts for SEO, you may want to rethink your content strategy altogether.
Do you optimize your blog posts for SEO before you hit publish? Let me know in the comments below.