When it comes down to it, there's a lot that goes into writing a blog post. Both before and after you publish it. Seriously, you're the content creator, editor, marketer...
Alright, by now you should understand the importance of SEO (search engine optimization). Especially if you read last week's post and found out how it's all changed in 2017. If you aren't familiar, don't worry. You can checkout this WordPress specific post here. SEO is crucial and, I know I sound like a broken record here, but if you want your blog posts to rank high in search engines, proper optimization is key. I've talked about the importance of it in blog posts before so today I'm going to focus on the steps you need to take. Which brings us to this topic: how to optimize your blog posts. Below you will find the steps you can take in order to make sure that every one of your blog posts are optimized for search engines.
When you correctly optimize a blog post the positive results abound. A properly optimized post means that your blog traffic can increase. Also, if you make money with your blog, this may even increase your income. The following tips will increase your chances to rank high in search engines. Which is something you should aim for if you want to get your content out there.
HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR BLOG POSTS
INSTALL AN SEO PLUGIN (WordPress)
It's easy to create an optimized blog post without using an SEO plugin. However, using a WordPress plugin does make it a lot easier. As a result, it optimizes both your blog posts AND website. Which is pretty awesome when you think about it.
Yoast SEO is a great plugin. To install the plugin you'll need to have a WordPress blog. Head over to your wp-admin, go to Plugins > Add New. Next search for Yoast, install it and don't forget to activate the plugin.
As for Blogger, there isn't a plugin handy. However, they have enabled custom permalinks and meta description functionality for each post. It has covered almost 80% of what YOAST does so it's not bad. Although what it lacks is the ability to create custom sitemap files.
DETERMINE YOUR KEYWORDS
Okay. Let's get a few things straight here. Before you start to write your blog post, you need to take a few moments to determine what your keyword or phrase will be. This can be quite the task. But there's a way you can make this a lot easier. Enter Google Keyword Planner. Another great option for research is SEMrush.
We also published a blog post about this over here: SEO Keywords: 10 Ways To Find The Best Keywords for Your Business.
Google Keyword Planner allows you to do some much needed keyword research. However, the catch is that you need to have an AdWords account in order to use it. Although, I have seen a workaround - which means it *could* be free. You need to create a campaign (enter your billing information) and then pause it immediately after you create it. If you opt for Google's version to research your keyword, follow these steps:
- Visit the Google Keyword Planner and click on the box that says "Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.
- Type your phrase into the first box and click on "Get Ideas"
- Scroll down to the "Search Terms" to verify you're on the "Keyword Ideas" tab. In this box you'll find the average monthly searches for your phrase and the level of competition for your phrase. It also provides additional suggestions for keywords. Although, the competition column doesn't show you those who are writing the posts. It only shows the people who are paying to have their ad show up whenever the keyword or phrase is used.
You can use the information as a way to decide whether you should keep your phrase or use one of their suggestions instead. Keep in mind that you don't want to choose a keyword that has a really low average in terms of monthly searches. Because there's a good chance you won't rank at all for that specific keyword.
Another tip for choosing your keyword phrase is to use what are called long tail keywords. A long tail keyword consists of 3-4 keywords that are specific to what you are writing about. They are searched for less, so there isn't too much competition. Which means you'll have a better chance of being found in search engines.
For example, your blog posts are more likely to be found using the long tail keyword phrase "make money blogging" as opposed to the simple keyword "make money". Think of it this way... with a phrase like "make money" there are so many other long-standing sites that have already ranked for that specific phrase. Therefore you will most likely never be found if you use that phrase/
USE KEYWORDS IN YOUR POST
Before I go too far into this, let's discuss keyword etiquette. When you use keywords in your posts, please don't force your keywords into your content. The goal with any blog post is that you write it for humans NOT search engines. You don't want the keywords within your content to sound unnatural. Below are places you can add keywords:
- Post Title: I know it's not always ideal to include your keywords in your post title, because sometimes it sounds weird, or it isn't catchy enough. Try this: go ahead and use that catchy title for your blog post title and use an SEO friendly title in the SEO title section of your Yoast SEO plugin. This way your readers can see that awesome catchy title. Meanwhile the search engines can see the keyword optimized title.
- Meta Description: When it comes to the meta description, always include your keywords. Your meta description should be a short description of your post. It should also include your keywords. Try to keep the meta description around 150 characters. If you use the Yoast plugin, it will let you know when you have too many.
- Throughout Your Post: Try to use keywords a few times throughout your post. Remember, you're writing for humans, not computers. A tip here is to use your keyword phrase in the first 200 characters of your post and then again in the last 200 characters. And by all means, if you find places within the post where it sounds natural to add them, go for it! You may also want to use your keywords in H2 tags... which I'll get into now.
Use H2 (Heading 2) Tags
Headings aren't just a pretty way to break up your content. Headings tell search engines what your content is really about. In WordPress there are 6 headings (H1-H6) available. When you use these headings in your blog posts, stick with H2 tags. Here's why: the H1 tag is for your post title only - so don't use H1 tags within your blog post. Think of the H2 tag as a subheading to the H1 tag. Once a search engine crawler finds your H1 tag, they will then look for all of the H2 tags. After that they will look for the H3 tags and so on. But here's the thing, Google really likes H2 tag. So, whenever it's possible, include your keywords in your H2 tag.
Give Your Images a Title and Alt Text
Whenever you upload a image to our post (which you really should be doing) you need to make sure that you name your image before you upload it into any post. Please, please, please DO NOT upload an image titled DC_00475, etc. Seriously, it is not good for SEO. Do yourself a favor and give your image a descriptive file name whenever you save it to your computer. After you upload and add your image to your blog post don't forget to give it a title and alt text.
The main reason you should do this is because search engines don't know that your image is. Which means you have to tell them. So you can place a title for the image in the title box (use your keywords) and place a short description in the alt text box (use your keywords again). You can make your alt text a little bit more descriptive that your title. But you can use the same exact information for both.
It is also important for SEO that your site loads fast. Which means that you should resize your images. If you upload them at their full size it will dramatically slow down you site. If you use WordPress, you can use a plugin like Compress JPEG & PNG Images to simply and easily compress your images.
For those of you use Blogger, you can still easily compress your images. You can use any photo editing program to resize your photos before you upload them. If you don't have an editing program head over to website PicMonkey. You can edit your photos for free.
Interlink Your Content
Whenever you write your blog posts take a moment to see if you have any relevant past blog posts and go ahead and place those links into your post. For example, you can say something like, "Starting a blog might sound hard, but it's easier than you might think." See what I just did there? ;) You should definitely make it a habit to interlink in every single blog post whenever you can.
The key is to link any relevant content within the post and, if you like, you can place related posts at the end of each blog post. When you place related posts at the end of your post is similar to using one of those "related posts plugins", but MUCH better. Simply because:
- It's good for SEO - I've heard a lot that those related posts plugins can negatively effect your search engine ranking.
- You control the content - if there's a post you want to promote, you can bring more attention to it when you interlink it at the bottom of your post.
Check Your Permalink
Before you hit publish on your awesome blog post, you need to make sure that your permalink is properly optimized as well. A permalink is the permanent link to your blog post or page.
Ideally you want your permalink to include your keywords and be:
- Not too long
- Free of stop words (such as "the" or "is")
Please remember that if you already have a post that is published, don't change the permalink if you don't have to. Changing a permalink that is already established and associated with a blog post has it's downsides. Especially if you don't cover your bases. Because anytime someone visits the post using the old link, they will be sent to a 404 error page. Trust me when I say that's something you don't want.
However, there is a trick if for some reason you really have to change the permalink of an already published post. You MUST make sure that you set up a 301 redirect from the old link to the new one. In WordPress there is a plugin that can help you do this: Simple 301 Redirects.
If you use Blogger you can still redirect old links to a new one. This only works if you want to redirect within your Blogger blog. Not any external links. Here's how:
- Login to your Blogger account.
- Click on your blog > go to Settings \ Search Preferences and click "Edit" next to "Custom Redirects".
- Enter the old URL in the "From" field and the new URL in the "To" field. Make sure to include the forward slash " / "
- Don't enter the full URL in these fields. Just omit the address of your blog and type only the rest of the link. For example, "/deleted-page.html" and
- Click the "Save" link and the "Saves Changes" button and you're done!
Now I know this is a lot of information to take in, remember and apply. So for the next couple of blog posts that you write, make sure that you keep this post hand. Just take it one step at a time and check things off as you go. And before you know it, you will be writing SEO friendly blog posts in no time. Best of all, at some point this will all become second-nature. Which means you'll start producing blog posts full of epic SEO. Who doesn't love that?
Have you been using any of the steps listed above before? And if so, which ones have you used? Which ones haven't you used? Are you new to SEO for blog posts? What are you most concerned about? Let us know in the comments below so we can discuss!