First, let’s look briefly at why blog SEO best practices are so important. There are three main factors that contribute to a high ranking website. They are content (quality, relevance and frequency), PR (backlinks from preferably strong domains to your site) and SEO.
The main problem that companies have with SEO, apart from a widespread lack of correct implementation of best practice, is that it takes time and doesn’t produce instant results. But, if you’re looking for medium to long-term website growth, ignore SEO at your peril.
Google aims to provide people who search something with the most suitable result. They do this by sending out what they call a “spider,” which “crawls” your site looking for indicators of suitability to match the search. They look at your keyword, headlines, subheadlines, images, content and additional factors such as website domain strength. SEO is your way to tell Google, “This is what this article is about and why you should rank it high”.
If you don’t, your article will be doomed to languish down the rankings, nowhere near page one, unless you’re writing about something so obscure that there is little competition online. Great news for people writing about how to find the love of your life on the planet Zorg, not so great if you’re in a market with a lot of competitor companies both home and abroad.
Before getting to the checklist, you want to make sure that you have installed and activated a sitemap plugin like Google XML Sitemaps, which really helps search engines to analyze your site better, and thus, return your blog posts higher. Then, ensure you have also installed an SEO plugin – you can’t go far wrong with the Team Yoast plugin here (I’m not affiliate marketing for either of these plugins by the way). If your site is not on WordPress and you use an alternative like Drupal, look for the equivalent to these plugins, which should be available.
OK, so you have those two plugins installed now, right? You’re committed to producing original, high-quality content that solves your ideal buyer’s problems? You have a plan in place for PR and backlink building?
Warning: buying backlinks is not a good idea because Google will ban yo’ ass into next year. Seriously, they will almost certainly find out and punish your site. it’s a long road back from that dungeon if your site is thrown in there.
Alright, so let’s get down to it. If you follow this 15-step blog SEO best practices checklist, your blog traffic will surely grow!
Blog SEO Best Practices: Your Simple 15-Step Checklist
1. Nail your keyword research
Each blog post is underpinned by your “focus keyword” – this is the most important term in the post and it is what tells search engines what it is about. That is if you subsequently implement your focus keyword in the article correctly. There is a relevant keyword bar in the SEO section of each post on your post edit page.
You can carry out some quick keyword research on your post with Google’s very useful Keyword Planner. Additionally, you can find out what people are searching for on Google by typing in a search and scrolling down to the bottom of Google to see similar popularly used search terms, shown in the image below.
In this example, I have searched “Entering foreign markets.” Google then shows me the most popular search terms. If this is what you are going to write about, you have a powerful information source at your disposal regarding what people are searching and therefore what you can include in your own article as possible keywords.
Ideally, your blog should be made up of posts with a mix of short, medium and longtail keywords.
Short – one-word focus keyword terms – might be used in less competitive search categories.
Medium (two to three words) and longtail keywords (four+) would be used in more competitive areas where you want to be more specific.
2. Choose a great headline
Your headline is what gets people to click on the article among a sea of content. So make it good. But it’s generally a good rule of thumb to strike a balance between getting creative and including your focus keyword. The keyword absolutely must be in the headline.
3. Get your H tags right
These are your subheadings throughout your article. Here is the code formula for a H2 tag in the “Text” tab of your WordPress post dashboard: <h2>SUBHEADING HERE</H2>
H tags are essential as they say to Google, “Look, this is really important!” So you really want to get your focus keyword included, or similar search terms to your focus keyword.
4. Include the keyword in the image alt text
Once you include an image in your post, click on it and make sure you include the focus keyword or a similar search term in the “Alt Text” section. Again, it helps search engines to “crawl” the post better and therefore rank it higher if it ticks the boxes that they are looking for to answer the searcher’s query.
5. Add the keyword to the first paragraph
Ideally, repeat the keyword in the very first paragraph of your post. Even better if it is in bold or italics. The key is to do all this without the post sounding mechanical – the challenge is in ensuring your content flows and sounds natural while optimizing for search engines.
6. Write a great meta description
Your SEO meta description should include the focus keyword and tell readers why your post is so brilliant. Focus on these two objectives when writing it and you won’t go far wrong.
7. Write strong permalinks (URL structure)
The root of your permalink is the permanent website URL – woodscopywriting.com/blog in this blog page’s case.
The extension is what comes after. Generally the blog post title is a good idea for your extension, and ideally, it should also include the focus keyword. My focus keyword for this article is, you guessed it, “Blog SEO best practices.” And this is what forms the permalink extension.
Permalink root: woodscopywriting.com/blog
Permalink extension: blog-seo-best-practices
Final permalink address: woodscopywriting.com/blog/blog-seo-best-practices
Quick tip: Keep the extension as short as possible. Long URLs are best avoided.
8. Write a great social media headline
This is usually the same as the blog post title, but sometimes you might want to make it shorter. If it goes over a certain character length it might get cut off when shared on social media channels. Again, it must include the focus keyword.
9. Include at least two inbound links
Include at least two links to other articles or pages on your website. This is great for SEO and for keeping readers on your site with additional articles and pages to read.
10. Include two outbound links
Including one or two outbound links is a good idea. Make them authoritative links that will further help your reader and strengthen your article. It’s natural to think that doing this will have readers leave your site, but it will help your SEO and really, if your content is up to scratch, those readers won’t go anywhere.
11. Include bold and italicized sentences
Making important phrases or sentences bold or italicized – ideally loaded with your focus keyword or a similar search term – is another signpost for Google. For instance, putting your first paragraph focus keyword reference in bold is a great start, which you’ll see I have done above.
12. Mix it up with word count
Long-form posts are fashionable. People like to read, in spite of all the doom-mongering warnings that we are all turning into idiots with the attention span of an ice cream cone. Tablets and large screen smartphones have helped this rise in long-form content. Generally, a post of over 1,200 words is long-form.
It’s a good idea to get a mix of short and long-form pieces onto your blog. Just make sure each post is at least 300-400 words as a bare minimum. Otherwise, it won’t even register with Google in most cases.
13. Strategically place the keyword in headlines and subheadings
It’s this simple – the closer to the front of the headline and subheading that your focus keyword is, the better.
What is often challenging is doing this and making your article title attractive to the reader. Striking the right balance is key. In lieu of the focus keyword in some places, aim to also cover similar search terms that people might use on Google – this will help your article to show up in results.
14. Add video, podcasts and photography to your content strategy
“Content” doesn’t just mean writing. All these other forms of media are excellent options to include on your blog. Google loves video, so if you can include interviews, quick commentaries or the like along with a written post, you’ll be streets ahead of most of your competition. Podcasts similarly offer a different medium and high-quality, original photos help your content to stand out from the crowd.
15. Always post original content
Duplicating content from another site is just about the worst thing you can do. Search engines will clock it and they will seriously punish your site by ensuring it doesn’t rank for anything.
Always make your content unique and original. Is it solving your ideal buyer’s problems?Are you bringing something to the table which no one else is? Are you solving problems better than anyone else and demonstrating this through benefits and not features in your content?
Follow these 15 blog SEO best practices and your site will be in great shape in no time.
It’s up to you then to promote it further with link building, PR work and distribution.
What do you think? Is there anything else that you would add? Have you had any specific problems with blog SEO?
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Here’s to your success,
Tim Woods, founder and copywriter