Last updated on August 23rd, 2022 at 11:22 am
There are many things to consider when writing a blog post, not just optimizing your blog posts for SEO. It’s crucial to keep your audience in mind – you’re not just writing for Google’s bots, after all. There are a few questions that you can ask yourself when you are writing a blog post:
- What is the purpose of the blog post?
- What problem does your blog post solve?
- What are the main benefits for readers?
- Is this a topic that will resonate with your readers?
- Is this a topic you’ve already covered in your other blog posts?
You should also consider how long it will take readers to click through, how they will interact with the material, and what the primary call to action will be.
While your audience should be your primary concern, optimizing your blog posts for SEO comes a close second. Unless you’re willing to pay for traffic to your blog, you need to impress Google in order to rank well in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and get a healthy flow of traffic to your website. Optimizing your content for SEO is the primary way you can boost your ranking (alongside other onsite and offsite SEO techniques).
In this guide, I’ll be sharing 15+ tips and tricks for ensuring your blog posts are well optimized for SEO.
How to Optimize Blog Content for Search Engines
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of making your content as search-friendly as possible. Search engines like Google don’t just read your words; they can also see and understand your structure, keywords, and links. Optimizing your content will help you get better rankings and traffic.
To optimize content for search engines, there are plenty of techniques you can use. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these 17 tips should be on your to-do list.
1. Identify your target audience and focus on their needs
If you don’t have a clear understanding of your target audience, it’s virtually impossible to optimize your blog content for SEO. Google uses something called “search intent” to match queries that get typed into the search engine with websites that meet the needs of the person searching.
Your understanding of your target audience will guide your content optimization. If you can understand your audience, you can understand their search intent, and you can serve up content that Google will recognize as meeting the needs of the searcher. Miss the mark, and you won’t rank!
This means asking questions and gathering the necessary information before you start writing or optimizing your content. When you have a clear understanding of your audience, you’ll know what you should and shouldn’t say in your content and how to speak to them.
One way of getting an in-depth understanding of your target audience is to work on creating “buyer personas”. HubSpot has an interactive “Make My Persona” tool that you can use to create your buyer personas – or, if you prefer to do it ‘old school’, you can simply create a Google Doc!
Questions you can consider when working on your buyer personas include:
- What are their demographics (age, gender, race, occupation, lifestyle, etc.)
- What is their biggest challenge?
- What are they looking for? Why?
- What is their educational background?
- What is their job?
- What are their goals and aspirations?
- What problems do they have that you can solve?
- What is their personality like? (This can help with strategies to increase CTR – for example, if one of your targets experiences FOMO, you can use this to your advantage.)
2. Conduct Detailed Keyword Research
Keyword research is an essential part of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It is the process of choosing the most appropriate key phrases for use in blog posts and website pages. Keywords are used by Google’s Search Engine algorithms to determine how relevant a particular piece of information is and whether to show it in search results. You can’t skip this part of your SEO strategy! Keyword research can be time-consuming, but it’s important to get it right from the outset.
DOING Keyword Research
When you do keyword research, you should check out various different metrics, including the volume, competition, and difficulty level of each keyword.
There are many methods of keyword research, but in most cases, you’ll find it easier to use tools designed for keyword research. You could opt to do basic keyword research by typing the seed keyword (the broad keyword related to your website) into Google and looking at the ‘auto-complete’ suggestions that Google offers.
If you’re doing SEO keyword research this way you won’t see key metrics such as keyword difficulty and search volume, but it is one way to get started quickly. You can also look at the “People also asked” section in the search results for more suggestions.
In addition to free keyword research, there are many different premium keyword research tools, designed to make it easier and faster for you to choose the best keywords for your content. One of my favorite tools is SEMrush.
Premium Keyword Research Tools
It’s easy to use SEMrush to conduct keyword research. By navigating to the Keyword Planner, you can start by adding a ‘seed’ keyword (a broad keyword that’s relevant to your content). You’ll get hundreds of keyword suggestions in a matter of seconds – and SEMrush shows metrics like keyword difficulty, search volume, and much more.
Alternatively, you can approach keyword research with SEMrush by inputting one of your competitor’s URLs and seeing which keywords they’re targeting and ranking for.
3. Use Long-tail Keywords
Unless you’re in a very specialized niche, it’s likely that you’ll have a lot of competition in SERPs. Broad keywords tend to have the highest level of competition (or keyword difficulty), making it almost impossible to rank for those keywords when you’re just starting out.
How, then, do you get visitors to your website when competition is so high?
The best way to do this is to start using long-tail keywords. These are words that people type into the search bar instead of typing a seed keyword. For example, “best dog food” would be a short-tail keyword. But, “dog food brands” is a long tail.
It’s important to remember that not all long-tail keywords are created equal. Some of them can bring more traffic than others. This is why it’s important to do some research before you start writing or optimizing your content.
You should look at the competition for each keyword and see how much global traffic or estimated traffic is associated with the keyword. The ideal keyword is one with high traffic and low keyword difficulty – but don’t dismiss low-volume keywords, either. Search volumes can be inaccurate, and some people have found that targeting so-called ‘zero-volume’ keywords ends up driving a lot of traffic to their websites.
4. Have an Effective Keyword-use Strategy Within Your Posts
If you want to rank well for certain terms, then you need to use those words strategically.
To increase your chances of ranking, you should include the most important search terms in the headline, the page URL, and the body text. You should also include your focus keyword in image ALT text, and in some of your sub-headings.
Don’t fall into the trap of keyword stuffing, however. That was a tactic that used to be recommended in the early days of SEO, but now it can really hurt your ranking. Google sees keyword stuffing as a kind of spam technique and doesn’t like it.
Tools like SurferSEO and SEMrush’s SEO Writing Assistant can help you to avoid keyword stuffing. These tools analyze your competitors and give you indications of words you should use in your content, plus how many times you should use them. While these are just rough guidelines, it can help your strategy if you use these tools when optimizing your content.
5. Organize Content by Topic Cluster (or Silos)
If you want to optimize your SEO, then you need to organize your content into topic clusters, or silos. This makes it easy for search engines to understand your site and to help your visitors to find what they are looking for.
Content silos or topic clusters mean using subtopics and grouping your content around themes based on keywords. One of the most effective means of using content silos and topic clusters is to create a series of pillar pages, each focused on a broad topic (for example, on WP Web Whizz, I have silos for articles about WordPress, web hosting, SEO, website building – with more to come as the site grows.)
These pillar pages act as a kind of overview for more specific topics. You might think of them as category pages, too. You cover a range of sub-topics on the pillar page, then go and create posts for the sub-topics, and link those pages up to the pillar page. Your sub-topics can also have their own sub-topics, but you should bear in mind that each piece of content on your website should never be more than three clicks away from the home page.
6. Write a Click-worthy Title
You don’t have to resort to click-bait, but your title does need to encourage your reader to click. As well as your main keyword, your title should include words that help the reader to understand that your article (more than any other in the SERPs) will answer their questions or give them the information/solution that they’re looking for.
Using a headline analyzer such as Coschedule can help with writing titles. You can also get plugins for WordPress that serve the same purpose.
Some good strategies for crafting a click-worthy title include posing a question, leading with curiosity, and grabbing the reader’s attention with data.
Words like ‘expert’ are particularly effective – it tells the reader that your content is authoritative and trustworthy.
Including numbers in your titles makes the reader more likely to click. MOZ, one of the leading SEO agencies conducted a study and found that 36% of readers prefer headlines that have numbers in them. Not only that but headlines with numbers in them get 73% more social shares!
Another tactic that works well in getting clicks on titles is to include power words. Power words are words that can trigger a psychological or emotional response in readers. They’re persuasive and are one of the top tools copywriters use to increase CTR and engagement. Examples of power words include:
Be careful with power words, however, and don’t over-use them!
7. Craft an Enticing CTA
A good CTA will encourage readers to take some sort of action. This could mean signing up for a free trial or buying something. So, you need to think carefully about how you are going to entice the reader into taking that action.
Command words (words that essentially tell the reader what to do) are a great choice. There are different types of command words.
- If you’re trying to sell something, you want words like “Buy”, “Shop”, “Order”
- If you want to get subscribers to sign up to your newsletter, you want words like “Subscribe” or “Download” (if you’re using a lead magnet – which you should be doing!!)
- If you want your reader to visit another page on your website, you want words like “Find out”, “Discover”, or “Learn.”
When writing your CTAs, you also want to use words that provoke an emotional response in the reader. You could evoke FOMO with words like “Last chance!” or “Limited offer” or “Don’t miss out,” for example. Something as simple as adding an exclamation point to the end of your CTA can provoke excitement.
One important thing about CTAs, though – keep them short, especially if you’re using a button. The ideal length is around 2-5 words. You can go over that if necessary, but that can start to look cluttered.
8. Add Images to Break Up Walls of Text
Images are an important part of SEO. They help to increase the visibility of your website. So, if you want to get more traffic, then you need to make sure that you add images to your site. This will also help to boost your conversion rate.
While there are lots of places where you can get free stock images, such as Unsplash, be careful with using stock images. It’s better to use unique graphics, such as photos you’ve taken yourself or graphics you’ve created.
You can easily create images using Canva. Even the free version of Canva enables you to generate high-quality graphics, infographics, and more. You don’t need graphic design skills, and Canva is incredibly easy to use!
However, if you’re short on time, you can also find cheap graphic designers on Fiverr, meaning you can get high-quality graphics for your website for just a few dollars.
9. Add Image Alt Text
When you add an image to your blog post, it’s important that you include an alternative text (ALT text). This is because search engines like Google use the ALT attribute when they crawl websites. This allows them to understand what your visual is about.
This also makes it easier for people who are using screen readers to read your content. So, if you want to make sure that your website or blog is accessible, then you need to ensure that every single image has a description.
Adding image ALT text is also a great way of helping you rank for keywords. You should include your keyword(s) in your ALT text wherever possible, but don’t keyword stuff in your tags. Try variations of your keyword or use keyword phrases.
10. Optimize Your Posts for Mobile Devices
Google’s Mobile-First indexing algorithm has been around for a while now – but surprisingly there are a lot of websites that still aren’t optimized for mobile devices.
Mobile-first indexing means that if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re less likely to rank well in SERPs. Making sure your website is easy to use on smartphones and tablets is an easy win in your SEO strategy, especially since WordPress makes mobile optimization easy.
So, how do you know whether or not your website is mobile-friendly or not? Well, the easiest way to find out is to use the Google Search Console.
Google’s Search Console is a great way to get information about your website’s performance, and it includes a tool to show you any issues with your website, including its mobile-friendliness.
This enables you to fix these problems and make sure that everything looks great on mobile.
You can also work on mobile-friendliness in WordPress, using the preview feature in Gutenberg. You can preview how your website will look on mobile devices and instantly correct any problems before you even hit the publish button.
Page speed is another factor that is used in mobile-first indexing – so as well as optimizing your content, you really need to have a web hosting provider that delivers fast speeds and reliability. You can check your page speed using the links in Google Search Console.
11. Optimize the Meta Description for Your Target Keywords
While Google doesn’t always use the meta description that you supply, you should still add a keyword-optimized meta description in WordPress for each of your articles.
Include your keyword at least once, and try to use words that will encourage the reader to click (e.g. ‘find out, ‘read’, ‘see’, etc.
One thing to remember about meta descriptions is that although Google now says that there are no set character limits for meta descriptions, it’s best to keep them to around 160 characters, including spaces, as anything longer will get cut off in SERPs.
12. Have User-friendly URL Structures
When you’re optimizing your site, you need to make sure that the URLs are short and easy to read. Also, they should include your keywords. This will help you get more traffic from people searching with those terms.
Also, don’t ever change your URL after you’ve already set up the page. Changing the URL can cause a whole host of problems, especially if you have backlinks from other sites to your page. Changing the URL will mean that the links become broken, resulting in a 404 error. So, once you publish the page, leave the URL alone!
13. Use Internal Links to Other Blog Posts
Internal links help Google understand your website better. Linking to other relevant posts within your content improves the validity and relevancy of your content in Google’s eyes. It also helps to keep visitors on your website for longer.
Every blog post and page on your website should have links to other pages and/or posts. You can install plugins for WordPress, such as Link Whisperer, which make internal linking an easy or even automatic process. Link Whisperer will suggest opportunities for internal linking, and with the premium version, you can create the suggested internal links with a single click.
14. Review Your Ranking Regularly
As well as working to optimize your content, it’s important to also keep an eye on your rankings.
You should make sure that you are checking the status of your site at least once a week. This will help you to see when your rankings start to drop or rise.
If you find out that your rankings are dropping, then you need to take some action. There are lots of reasons why your ranking might drop, but in most cases, there’s something you can do to turn the situation around. It might be that your information isn’t as up-to-date as your competitors’, or your page is loading slowly.
You should try to fix any problems as soon as possible. If you don’t, you could end up losing all of the traffic you were getting from Google and other search engines. And once you lose all of the traffic, it can be difficult to get it back again.
15. Focus on Your Reader’s Experience
It’s Google that ranks your website, driving traffic to your content, but never forget that you’re writing for human readers. Some strategies for user-focused content include:
- Write clear, comprehensive content that answers your reader’s questions.
- Use lots of headings to break up the content as this will make your content easier to read.
- Use bulleted lists, tables, and charts to make your content easier for your readers to digest.
- Bold the important sentences.
One thing to remember is that most readers will skim rather than read every word. You need to make sure that your content will make sense for those skim-readers, and that they can easily get the answers they need.
16. Publish Evergreen Content
If you only publish articles that have a short shelf life, then you won’t be able to build an audience. Instead, you should try to create evergreen content. This is content that will last longer than other types of content, stay relevant, and not need to be updated every few days/weeks to stay accurate.
So, how can you tell whether something will be evergreen? The answer is simple. Just ask yourself these questions:
- Is the topic relevant today? If yes, it’s evergreen.
- Will it still be relevant tomorrow? If yes, it’s evergreen.
- Is the topic something that changes weekly (e.g. sports results, news pages)? If yes, it’s NOT evergreen.
17. Update Content Regularly
When you update your content, you tell Google that your content is up-to-date and fresh. This is important since having fresh content on your website is a ranking factor.
Updating your content frequently tells Google that your content is fresh and relevant. You can add new information, update outdated information, add new images, etc.
When you’re updating your existing content, it’s a good idea to do some competitor research – this means checking how your content compares to your competitors’ content. Are there things that they’re covering that you’ve missed? Add those details.
The good thing about this part of your SEO strategy is that it’s much quicker to update existing content than write new content!
Tools I Use in My SEO Strategy
SEMrush is my current favorite SEO tool to use, but it is expensive. It is, however, an all-in-one SEO solution that makes tackling on- and off-site SEO (relatively) easy.
- Keyword tools
- Domain vs domain analysis
- SEO content brief creator
- On-page SEO checker
- Ranking position tracker (with Android and iOS app)
- SEO writing assistant
- Backlink gap tool
|Sometimes – you can get codes from affiliates for up to 30 days free!
2. Yoast SEO
Yoast is one of the top WordPress SEO plugins, and you can use it for free. It enables you to optimize your content for a keyword, add meta descriptions and titles, and more.
- Automatic XML sitemap generator
- Content optimization
- Metadata tools
- Open Graph metadata tools for social media
- Pro version allows you to optimize for multiple keywords
|From free. Pro version starts at $99/year.
|You can use the free version of Yoast SEO free forever – you don’t NEED the Pro version, but it can be useful to have, if you have the budget for it!
SurferSEO is possibly the best content optimizer currently available. I tried ditching it for a while to cut costs, but ultimately realized that my content is so much better when I use SurferSEO!
- Planner with keyword research tools and SERP analyzer
- Create content briefs to build an outline for your blog posts – you can share these briefs with others if you want to outsource your content creation
- Content audit allows you to audit your existing pages and optimize them
- Integration with WordPress and Google Docs (Chrome extension) to make it easy to upload your optimized blog posts
|From $49/month (paid annually) or from $59/month (paid monthly)
|Not currently – but there is a 7-day money-back guarantee that you can extend to 30 days by watching some training videos!
If you can’t afford to use SEMrush, then UberSuggest is an affordable alternative. It even has a free tier that you can use for some basic SEO. There’s also a 7-day free trial for the premium version. Plus, you can save big by choosing the lifetime plan where you pay once (£290)
- Rank tracker to monitor how your SEO efforts are impacting your ranking
- Competitor tracker to see how your competitors are doing
- Keyword research tool, including keyword suggestions based on related keywords, question-based keywords, and prepositions
- Content ideas based on SERP data for your seed and suggested keywords
- Chrome extension
If you want to maximize your SEO results, then Ranked.AI is, hands-down, the best (not to mention most affordable) done-for-you SEO service available. It’s designed to make it possible for businesses of all sizes to access SEO experts, with monthly plans starting at just $99/month.
- Managed SEO service that will help you to rank for competitive keywords
- One piece of SEO-optimized content written for you each week
- On-page SEO optimization of your website
- Backlink acquisition – genuine, high-quality links, with no PBNs – Google-approved backlinks
- 7 Day free trial so you can evaluate if Ranked.AI is right for you!
Why I no longer recommend Ahrefs
Not long ago, Ahrefs was my number 1 recommendation for keyword research, rank tracking, and more. It was a central part of my own SEO strategy. In recent months, however, I’ve moved away from Ahrefs (to SEMRush). There’s a range of reasons, not least the changes to Ahref’s pricing structure. The value for money just isn’t there anymore. It’s not just the pricing changes, though – other deciding factors include the way searching for a single keyword now counts as a keyword report and Ahref’s mediocre customer service.
Is Ahrefs still a good SEO tool? Yes, undoubtedly. However, I can’t in all honesty recommend it to new users, because there are equally-good tools available that offer better value for money.
Create Blog Content Search Engines and Your Audience Will Love
The most important thing to remember is that there are no shortcuts or tricks to getting ranked high in search engines. You need to put time and effort into creating quality content on a regular basis.
SEO is not a quick fix, but it is important. You can achieve long-term results and success by spending time on getting your SEO right from the outset. By using these tips consistently, you can achieve thousands of unique page views each day and grow your business income.