How to optimize blog posts for SEO
f you have a website, chances are good that where you show up in Google is important to you. And if that’s the case, you may have heard that blogging on a regular basis helps you show up higher and better in search engine results.
Let’s take a look at whether posting articles on your blog really does help SEO, and if so, how you should do it.
Blogging for missionaries
Would you believe that blogging can help missionaries? It can! Way back in 2004, we started working with David and Kim Romero. They were preparing to go to Nicaragua to serve as missionaries, so we built a couple websites for them.
Back in pre-internet days, missionaries would write letters updating people on their work. Typically they would send copies of those letters to various churches that sponsored their work, often quarterly or even less often.
The Romeros had a different idea. They had heard of blogging and decided they wanted to use one of those to post their updates online. That way the could share more frequently and there wouldn’t be a delay in the news reaching the sponsoring churches.
So we installed blog software for them and trained them on how to use it. In 2005, they moved to Nicaragua and started blogging.
Blogging for SEO success
Let’s be clear on one thing. The Romeros did not start blogging intending for it to help their SEO. They didn’t do any research in what could help them rank higher—they just wrote articles that would help inform their readers.
But after blogging for several years, they started showing up on page one (and usually in position one) for just about any phrase you could search for related to missionaries or mission work in Nicaragua.
The Romeros moved back to the United States in 2010 and stopped blogging at that point. We left their website online for approximately another five years. After no blogging whatsoever for five years, they still showed up on page one for most phrases related to missionaries or mission work in Nicaragua!
Blogging consistently for five years was so powerful that the SEO benefit lasted another five years after they stopped!
How do I write an optimized SEO article?
Obviously, the digital marketing landscape has changed since 2010. But Google’s goal is still to match the people searching with great content that fits their needs. So the overall strategy of blogging for SEO is still a solid one.
However, now you need to be more strategic to write an optimized SEO article. The system described below is very close to the one we use for clients that invest in having us blog for them for SEO, and it’s the one we recommend people use when blogging for SEO on their own.
- Do keyword research
- Pick your blog title
- Outline your article
- Research and tweak your outline
- Fill in the content
- Edit everything
- Publish and share
- Rinse and repeat
Step 1 – Do keyword research
Keywords don’t play the same role in SEO that they used to, but they’re still helpful in the SEO process. When it comes to blogging, keyword research can help reveal the broad topic you should be writing on.
While you may not need to do this step every time, it will help inform your choice of topics in general. Seed your research with services or products you offer, and it will give you a huge amount of data on those terms and other related terms.
Here are four keyword research tools to choose from:
- Wordtracker (our tool of choice, although we use a paid account)
- Google’s Keyword Planner
- Moz’s Keyword Explorer
- SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool
Step 2 – Pick your blog title
You should have a very broad topic for your blog post at this point. It’s time to narrow things down a bit and find out what people are actually searching for.
There are two tools we recommend for this.
The first is Answer the Public. You enter in a specific keyword or short phrase and it will give you a number of related questions people are entering into Google.
Don’t find anything you like in there? Google’s SERP—Search Engine Results Page—to the rescue! Just enter in your keyword, then look for a couple different sections for more ideas.
In the middle of the page there will often be a section labeled “People also ask.” You can even click on the last item to expand it, and Google will add a couple more underneath. At the bottom of the page there will often be a “Searches related to” section.
You can even keep drilling down to find an interesting topic by clicking on one of them to show its SERP, then check the sections again.
Step 3 – Outline your article
Once you’ve determined your topic, it’s time to create an outline. I recommend outlining your blog post by essentially writing the subheads. You can also use placeholders like “introduction” and “conclusion” where you won’t actually use them as subheads.
The key here is to make sure you’re giving a great, in-depth answer to the search query the blog post is based on.
Step 4 – Research and tweak your outline
It’s not time to write your article yet! You probably have a great outline, but it’s time to fill in exact phrasing based on SEO research. You may even end up tweaking or adding sections to your outline.
Copy and paste each subhead (excluding ones like “introduction”) into Google and see what it shows in the “People also ask” and “Searches related to” sections. Remember, those are real phrases people are typing in.
If your outline lends itself to using Answer The Public again, feel free to utilize that tool once more.
Step 5 – Fill in the content
Now your outline is ready to fill in. Be sure to actually answer the questions people are asking in Google. Where it makes sense, be sure to use plenty of:
- Bulleted lists
- Numbered lists
There are a lot of differing opinions on how many images you should use in an article, but in general the best practice seems to be one image for every 300 to 500 words. Be sure to only use images you have the rights to use. Don’t just grab one from Google’s results!
Step 6 – Edit everything
Think you’re done with your blog post? Think again!
An amateur would stop once the article is complete. If you want professional results, it’s time to use an editor or proofreader.
What’s the difference between an editor and a proofreader? I’m so glad you asked!
A proofreader will make sure you didn’t make any obvious mistakes. They’ll check for basic grammar, misspellings, missing words, etc.
An editor, on the other hand, will check for clarification. Does the article actually make sense? Are concepts clear? Is it easy to understand?
Regardless of whether you’re using an editor or a proofreader, make sure they know that you’re writing with SEO in mind. They should tell you if a headline or phrase doesn’t make sense, but you may still decide to keep it like you originally had it because of the SEO benefit.
Step 7 – Publish and share
Now it’s time to publish your fantastic article! Although hopefully you’re working ahead and are actually scheduling your article to be published in the future.
Even once the blog post is live, you still have more work to do. It’s time to get the word out! Here are some ways you can share it:
- Email newsletter
- Direct personal emails to people you know
- Social media updates
- Paid social media advertising
- Write a related LinkedIn article and share it at the bottom
- Write a guest blog on someone else’s blog and share it at the bottom
Create the mix that works for you, and use it every time you write a blog post. At T&S, we like to call that your BDS, or Blog Delivery System.
Once you’re a few weeks out, you can continue to work it into your regularly scheduled social media updates.
Step 8 – Rinse and repeat
Of course, doing this once isn’t likely to be very beneficial. The true benefit comes from doing it over and over again, consistently over time.
Remember, the Romeros didn’t blog for one month or even one year. They consistently blogged for five years to get the SEO results they ended up with.
SEO blogging resources
Looking for some more resources on blogging for SEO? Since we provide both SEO and blogging services for our clients, we have put together plenty of resources over the years!
To start out with, here are a few articles we’ve written:
- How long does SEO take to start working?
- How keywords in SEO have changed
- Watch out for these red flags with SEO services
- Do you have a BDS?
- Google Analytics blogging tips
Whether you’re new to SEO or have been dabbling in it for years, sometimes an overview is helpful. I put together an ebook with a brief, practical overview of Search Engine Optimization with proven tips on how to increase your organization’s ranking.
If you’re frustrated that you don’t rank better in the results or have been baffled by confusing advice, this ebook can help.
- Download our ebook, Become an SEO Superhero
Or maybe you want to blog for SEO, but you also want some less work-intensive blogs to round things out. No worries, we have you covered! In episode 10 of PixelTV, I shared some resources for coming up with blog topic ideas.
Finally, as you may have figured out, some of our clients invest in having us blog for SEO. If you want to talk about having us blog for SEO on your behalf, we’d be happy to have that conversation.
Just reach out to us to talk!
Note: Photo of Google sign courtesy of Rick Shaw, Ricks Concepts