A lot of companies start blogging for two reasons: to engage with their customers and to improve their website rankings. And despite what some people see these two goals as contradictory, they are in fact complementary.
To write successful blog posts you should follow three main rules:
- First of all: you should write genuine, interesting, and unique content; content that actually interests users; content that’s just great!
- Second: your content needs great format and structure; this will make your blog posts more appealing, easier to read, and more likely to be shared by your users.
- And third: your blog posts should be optimized and SEO friendly; this will make them appealing to search engines and will help to increase website rankings.
In this article, I will focus on this third main rule and I’ll explain how to make your blog posts optimized for search engines.
NOTE: This blog entry mainly refers to the “on-page optimization” factors. It doesn’t fully cover “off-page” aspects such as backlinking profile, the authority of the linking domains, anchor text, etc. Note also that some of the factors listed in this article (such as the usage of bold, italics, heading tags) don’t directly affect SEO. But their usage could improve user experience on the webpage and we know that better user experience generally leads to better SEO.
1. Focus on 1 – 2 keywords
When writing for your blog, it’s important to start with a clear idea which are the worlds you’ll be targeting. Of course, the number of targeted keywords should be limited. This helps you to stay focused on the goal for your post and gives you more time to optimizing for just these one or two keywords.
You have a choice between long-tail and short-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are a better choice because they will allow you to target more qualified traffic.
The keywords should be included in:
- the content of the article,
- the meta title tag,
- the meta description tag,
- the URL of the blog post,
- the image alt tag (if relevant).
Continue reading to learn more about these elements.
2. Don’t be afraid of long articles
There’s no rule about the optimal length of a blog post. And there’s no such thing as “perfect” length. But you have probably heard the expression “Short is better”. Well, that’s not entirely true.
Long posts are good for SEO.
According to research done by serpIQ, in 2012, the top 10 results from Google all have at least 2,000 words! The reason is that long posts give you more flexibility with keywords and you’re not limited to one or two specific keywords.
The sheer variety of words is also an important factor that can improve your SEO.
Another advantage of long posts is that they are more likely to be shared. A research done by Neil Patel shows, that posts that are more than 1,500 words receive 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than the articles with fewer than 1,500 words.
And also, longer blog posts receive more backlinks. According to Moz experts, there’s a positive correlation between longer content and the number of links a post gained.
But all this doesn’t mean that you should absolutely always write long articles. An article should be as long as it needs to be.
The length of your blog posts depends on its purpose. They should be as long as they need to be to serve their purpose.
Personally, when I’m asked, “How long a blog post should be?” I advise my clients to write at least 300 words for a blog article and at least 500 words if they write content for a landing page or a guest post.
3. Use the main keyword at least three times
The keyword density is not really a thing in SEO, but it is still recommended to use the targeted keyword from two-three to five times in the content.
Of course, you also should:
- avoid keyword stuffing, multiple mentions of the keywords,
- write only reader-friendly content,
- use variation of the main keywords (secondary or long-tail keywords),
- put the main keyword in bold (<b> or <strong> tag) or italics (<em> or <i> tags) – we can only guess the effectiveness of this tactic, but I still recommend doing it, mainly because it helps readers to scan the content and to better organize your article (similar to the headings).
4. Always include a meta title tag
The meta title is used on search engine results pages (SERPs) to display preview snippets for a given page. This will be a search engine and reader’s first step in determining the relevancy of your blog article to their search query.
The meta title should:
- include the targeted keyword – including a keyword here is vital!,
- be unique for every article,
- be no longer than 60 characters – or as many characters as will fit into a 512-pixel display,
- contain the targeted keyword in the beginning (if possible).
5. Always include a meta description title tag
Similar to the meta title, the meta description tag is used by search engines to provide explanations of the contents of web pages in the SERPs:
The meta description should:
- be unique for every article,
- include all targeted keywords (1 to 3 keywords maximum),
- be no longer than 155-160 characters,
- induce users to click through – remember that you’re not writing it only for the search engines, but also for the visitors. The meta description is a way to “market” your blog post in the SERPs and make them more appealing.
6. Always include at least one image and/or graphic
The image should:
- be relevant to the topic of the article (or help to illustrate the targeted keywords, if possible),
- has an Alt attribute (<alt=> tag).
7. Always check if the URL of the article is optimized
The URL of the blog post also requires some special attention.
The URL should:
- include the targeted keyword of the page,
- be maximum 2048 characters long (yes, I know it’s a lot, but just in case ),
- use hyphens to separate words – do not use underscores, spaces, or any other characters to separate words.
But be careful with the excessive use of hyphens in URLs – multiple hyphens can be seen as spammy. Try to limit their number even if that means to shorten the URLs or to use fewer words in it.
8. Use heading and sub-headings in the body of the article
Two rules to remember:
- Use only one <h1> tag per article
Normally the Heading 1 is transformed into a <h1> tag in the source code of the page. So if you first write your article on Word and then you copy-paste it to your blog, all Heading 1-s from Word will me transformed in <h1> tags. Check the HTML editor of your blog to make sure that you have only one <h1> tag on the page.
Moreover, if you’re a WordPress user, be aware that depending on the theme you’re using, WordPress could automatically apply an H1 tag on the title of the post. If that’s the case you should use only Heading 2 and lower in the post content.
- Include the target keyword in the headings
9. Include internal links in the article
Always include links to other posts or webpages of your site.
Inbound links to your content will help retain visitors on your website and will show search engines the validity or relevance of your content.
The pages you’re linking to should be:
- relevant to the blog post topic or tie together similar topics,
- give the reader the possibility to better explore the subject.
Use internal links to drive traffic to other relevant and authoritative pages (or blog posts) of your website.
10. Implement the authorships’ markup (rel=”author”)
NOTE: In August 2014, Google officially stopped supporting the rel=author markup and stopped showing authorship results in Google Search.
Therefore, this recommendation to implement rel=author is no longer valid.
11. Include social media links and buttons to enable content sharing
According to some studies, there’s a correlation between the number of social shares and page’s ranking.
Give your readers the opportunity to share your posts and spread the word about your blog!
As I mentioned in the beginning, the most important SEO factor is the quality of your content. By incorporation these 11 SEO elements to your articles, you can simply maximize the SEO friendliness of your posts, but the most significant thing is and will always be to write very, very good blog articles!