So you've written some blog posts - great! But you're not getting many views - not so great. You decide to check Google search to see if your posts appear, but you find they are stuck on page two or three.
What can you do?
You need to optimise your blog posts for search engines. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a method of improving a website page's (including blog posts) ranking in search results. But how do you go about optimising your blog posts?
In this post, I'll cover seven essential techniques you can use to optimise your blog posts and be SEO-ready. This post is for readers who might have heard of SEO but don't know where to start when it comes to using it for their blog. Don't worry - I've been where you are. SEO can be a minefield!
These techniques are not too technical and can be easily implemented if you have a content management system (CMS) available to you. Keep reading to find out more!
What is SEO?
SEO is search engine optimisation, which (according to Moz) is "a set of practices to improve the positioning and appearance of web pages in organic search results".
But what does that really mean? Let's break it down.
When you create a website page or a blog post, you want people to be able to find it when they type a question or query into a search engine (let's use Google in this example as it's the most popular engine).
Ideally, you want your website page to end up on the first page of Google. After all, the number one organic spot on Google's search rankings has an average clickthrough rate (the number of people clicking on it) of about 27.6% (source: Backlinko). As you go down the rankings, the likelihood of people clicking on a page decreases. Backlinko found that only 0.63% of people will click on a search result from page two.
Search results page real estate is coveted by businesses of all shapes and sizes. But how do you get your blog post to page one, let alone the top result?
The answer is SEO. There are some practices you can do that will enhance your blog post's chances of ranking high on search engine results pages (SERPs). At the very least, you should do these practices on your main website pages - after all, they are the ones you want to draw business towards.
But you should also consider optimising your blog posts too. Here's why.
Why should you optimise your blog posts?
If you want your blog posts to generate organic traffic via search engines, you need to optimise them. You don't need to optimise every post you publish - just the ones you deem to be page-one-worthy.
Optimising your blog posts isn't a one-time job either. You need to continually revisit your posts, analyse their rankings and results, and use SEO techniques to improve their rankings over time.
Remember: not every post has to be a page-one success. Some posts you'll publish will rank at the top spot, others will fall midway down page one, and others will end up on pages two or three. It's all about optimising the posts you want to rank well and that you believe should be ranking higher.
With that said, let's cover some techniques you can implement to optimise your blog posts for search engines.
7 SEO tips to optimise your blog posts
The first thing you should always do when optimising your blog posts is to make sure you know and use your keywords effectively. Ideally, this is something you should do before even starting to write the blog post!
What are keywords? Keywords are important words and phrases that help search engines identify what a piece of content is about, based on a searcher's query. For example, someone may type into Google Search, "top Italian restaurants in [local area]" and the search results will come up with the most relatable content for that search query based on keywords. In this case, the keywords would be "top Italian restaurants" and "[local area]".
Keywords are a cornerstone of SEO, and should be used in the following places:
Title and title tag (I will explain the difference below)
Headings and subheadings
Make sure you choose the keyword(s) you want to target before you start writing your blog post by doing keyword research, and make sure they are used in the places highlighted above (we'll get into each of these shortly).
Top tip: avoid "stuffing" your keywords. Search engines like Google will lower your rankings if you have spammed your keyword continuously in your text. To avoid this, ensure your post is written as naturally as possible, and then check and edit it for keywords afterwards.
2. Headings and subheadings
Blog posts need to have a simple structure that is easy for both humans and search engine bots to read. This is where headings and subheadings can help.
Blog posts (like any website page) should be organised by using heading tags. These are your H1, H2, H3, and so on. The numbers on heading tags correspond to their level of "importance".
The H1 tag is always the title of your page. For example, the H1 tag of this post is, "7 Ways to Optimise Your Blog Posts For SEO (and Get on Page One)". You should only have one H1 tag on your page, which tells search engine bots exactly what your page is about. More than one will confuse the bots (don't confuse the bots)!
(Note: The H1 title is different to the title tag of your blog post. H1 titles are displayed on your website page, whereas a title tag appears in search results.)
After the H1 title, you should use H2 headings to divide your post into sections, and H3 headings to create subheadings. For example, in this post "7 ways to optimise blog posts for search engines" is an H2 tag, while the subheadings underneath are H3 tags.
Still not sure? Think of your headings as a hierarchy. Headings generally have the following layout:
(H2) Section one (usually definition)
(H2) Section two (main section)
(H3) Subsection 1
(H3) Subsection 2
(H3) Subsection 3
(H2) Concluding section
If you can follow this structure and adapt it to your needs, you'll make it much easier for bots to index your page!
A final tip on headings: make sure your keyword is included in the H1 title, and (where possible) the H2 headings. This will make it easier for search engine bots to index and rank your page efficiently.
Alt-text is the text used to describe an image or graphic on a website page (source: Moz). It's a key part of website accessibility as it is read aloud by screen readers for the visually impaired, and it also appears when the image doesn't load.
Most CMS (content management systems) like WordPress and Wix have built-in settings for adding alt-text to images, making it much easier. If you don't have a CMS system to hand, you may need to manually input the text in your HTML code.
An image's alt-text should accurately describe the image or graphic. It's also a perfect opportunity to slide your keyword into an image or two, but only where it makes sense in the context of the image. This is why it's vital to display images that are relevant to your blog post.
4. Internal and external links
A final on-page SEO tip is to make sure you have a good mix of internal and external links in your blog post.
Internal link: a link from your website page to another page on your website.
External link: a link from your website page to a different website domain.
Internal links allow people and search engine bots to navigate your website easily. A healthy amount of internal links (i.e. as many as you can naturally fit in) tells search engine bots that your website is well-structured and easy for someone to explore and find what they need. This increases your chances of ranking well in search engines.
On the other hand, external links (different to backlinks) tell users and search engine bots that your blog post has been thoroughly researched and is a credible source of information. Be careful with external links, however. Using links from dubious sources could also negatively impact your SEO ranking. Here are a couple of tips for using external links:
Ensure they are relevant to the post.
Make sure they are from credible websites and companies (e.g. if you're talking about marketing, you could reference sites like HubSpot).
Make a separate document for your external link list, and include a quick summary for each link.
SERPs (search engine results page) optimisation
5. Title tag
A title tag is a segment of HTML code that describes the title of a website page. Unlike H1 title headings, title tags are displayed in search engine results pages (SERPs). The confusing part is that they can be similar to H1 titles!
While the H1 title on your website page can have more leeway, the title tag on SERPs can't afford such a luxury. It needs to be brief and to the point. Moz recommends that title tags should be between 50 and 60 characters. This is because SERPs cut off a title tag if it gets too long.
You can see when a title has been cut off as the end has been replaced by ellipses (...). You want to avoid this if possible, but if you can't, at least make sure all the important information is in the first half of the title tag.
Here are some additional tips for optimising your title tags:
Include your primary keyword (only once is needed).
Write the title tag as closely as you can to the H1 on-page title - this is so readers don't get confused when they click on the page.
Keep it brief and to the point.
Make sure it summarises the page accurately.
6. Meta description
Under the title tag on SERPs, you will find a short paragraph that either explains what the website page is about or takes a section directly from the page.
This paragraph is called the meta description, and it is another optimising opportunity for your page. Your meta description has around 150 to 160 characters before it gets cut off. That seems like a lot compared to the title tag, but don't be fooled. You still need to keep it brief and to the point.
You also need to consider your keywords very carefully. At the very least, you must include your primary keyword - just once will do. Never stuff your keywords into the meta description. Search engine bots are clever and will penalise you for stuffing.
You could include your secondary key phrase if it's relevant and it fits into the description, but don't worry too much if it doesn't. The priority is your primary keyword.
Here are some other tips for optimising your meta description:
Describe what the page is about.
Make sure the description is relevant to the website page.
Avoid filler words such as "that" and passive voice to save characters.
Include a call to action such as "read more" or "learn more" if you have space.
7. URL slug
Finally, we come to the URL slug. The URL is the website's address, and every page (aside from the home page) has an additional slug that tells people what the page is about. For example, "amazingwebsite.com/blog/this-post-is-amazing".
My golden rule for the URL is to keep it simple while using your primary keyword. You want to make sure you get in the key components of the phrase without filling up the slug with too many words.
Many CMS systems will automatically generate a URL slug based on the H1 title you create. However, I recommend you go back to the SEO and optimise it. This is because your H1 title will undoubtedly have a few words and numbers that aren't necessary for the URL.
You also want to avoid using changeable characters such as numbers or dates too. This is because if you go back and edit your blog post to add additional items or change the date in the header if your URL has those numbers in you will need to change it.
Changing the URL is a no-go in SEO because you will create error pages or need to redirect users to the correct page. So, save yourself time by writing a slug that doesn't rely on those numbers - that way, you won't need to change it at a later date. For example, although the title of this post is "7 Tips to Optimise Your Blog Posts For SEO...", the URL slug is "seo-blog-post-optimisation-tips". This summarises the post and uses the primary keyword while allowing for flexibility if I decide to change the post.
To summarise, here are some tips on optimising your URL slug:
Avoid using numbers or dates.
Use your primary keyword.
Keep it short and sweet.
Use hyphens (-) between each word.
Make sure the slug reflects what the page is about.
Your Next Steps ...
Optimising your blog posts for SEO is a necessary step to take if you want your content and website to stay visible. But remember, not every post will do well. This is why you shouldn't be disappointed if you do all the right things but the post doesn't make it to page one - sometimes it's just not meant to be.
That doesn't mean you should give up entirely though! Better to try and have a few successful posts that gain traction rather than not try at all.
There are several ways you can optimise your blog posts for SEO, both on-page and off-page. They are:
Identify your keywords
Organise your headings and subheadings
Include alt text
Manage internal and external links
Optimise your title tag with your primary keyword
Include an accurate meta-description
Simplify your URL slug
If you complete all of these for each blog post, you'll be well on your way to SEO success.
Do you have any questions about SEO for blog posts? Are you struggling to get to grips with your blog? Then book a free discovery call with me. We’ll go through your situation, examine your blog’s challenges, and explore your goals. At the end of our call, I will suggest a content-focused solution that will solve your problem. You will also get actionable advice you can use straight away, whether you decide to work with me or not!
Until next time!