Numbers don’t lie. If you want to climb to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), well-written, engaging content alone won’t cut it. You also need to focus on writing SEO-driven, keyword-focused content that attracts not only website traffic, but the right kind of traffic. You might be thinking, “That sounds great, Courtney! But, how do I get started?”
We’re sharing 5 essential tips for creating SEO-friendly blog posts without sacrificing user experience and engagement, tips you can start using today:
1) Pick highly-effective keywords
Google handles over 40,000 search queries a second. Staggering, right? If you want to cut through search result clutter and outrank your competitors, you need to target the specific keywords and phrases your potential customers are searching. How else will they find your content and website?
To identify those hot keywords, head on over to the social platforms your target audience frequents and see what’s trending. Pay close attention to the exact phrases they use and monitor popular industry terms and topics.
Google Trends can also give you a feel for what keywords are popular at any given time. If you see searches are steadily declining over time for a specific keyword, you know that’s probably not the right keyword to target for your marketing and vice versa for increasing trends.
If you’re ever running low on keyword ideas, get inspiration from your competition. Use tools to see what keywords they’re currently ranking for — if these keywords are relevant to your business, consider using them too! SEMRush lets you enter a competitor and see the keywords they’re ranking for, their position in search results, traffic received for that keyword and other key metrics.
Keep in mind that the most obvious keywords aren’t always the best keywords. Searchers tend to use very specific “long-tail” keywords, keyword phrases and questions when they’re looking for something. Long-tail keywords comprise up to 70% of all search traffic and can unlock the door to successful SEO. When WPBeginner, the largest WordPress resource site for WordPress beginners, adopted a long-tail SEO strategy, they increased their organic search traffic by 20% in just two months!
Because you face fierce competition for shorter, more general keywords, you often have a better chance of ranking in the top results for long-tail keywords. And, long-tail keywords allow you to zero in on higher quality website traffic that often knows what they’re looking for and may be farther along in the buyer’s journey.
Once you’ve done your research and built a list of what you think are the most valuable, relevant keywords, plug them into a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, Ubersuggest, Keyword Tool and so on. Many keyword research tools give you the monthly volume for any given keyword. Test out different keyword tools — marketers are drawn to different ones for different reasons.
Depending on your business or industry (or budget or bandwidth for SEO efforts), it may be important to rank for high competition, short tail keywords. Still, try to also optimize for a healthy dose of long-tail keywords that are high in search volume but low in competition. You may find it’s much easier to rank for these words.
Remember that your focus keywords will evolve over time as trends shift, terminology changes or your product/service line changes. Be sure to conduct keyword research periodically to ensure you’re still focusing on the right keywords for your target audience and not missing out on vital ranking opportunities.
2) Naturally integrate keywords throughout your posts
Once you’ve decided on a list of target keywords, it’s time to write a blog post focused on one of these keywords. Brainstorm blog topics with your team and decide on a topic that will entice and engage your target audience.
Keep your buyer personas, their motivations, challenges, interests, etc. in mind throughout the brainstorming process. Choose a topic that will emotionally resonate with your potential customers and their needs, desires or pains.
As you write your blog, your keyword and natural variations should be regularly interspersed throughout the post. Your primary keyword should appear in these key places:
- Headings and subheadings
- URL if possible
- Image alt text (search engines can’t read images)
- Meta description
- Throughout the content
Remember that you’re writing for humans, not search engines. Focus on engaging readers with a natural writing style that takes their needs and interests into account.
Be sure to avoid overusing any keyword (also known as “keyword stuffing”) at all costs. Keyword stuffing may lead to a website being penalized or banned in search engine results pages either temporarily or permanently. But even more importantly, if your keyword appears too often and feels forced, you sacrifice a reader’s experience, insult their intelligence and compromise the article’s quality. Don’t give readers any reason to hit the back button and turn to a competitor’s blog for answers.
3) Link to influencers
As you build out your blog post, don’t be afraid to link to other articles or blogs. Linking to applicable and reputable websites not only offers blog readers additional reading material to expand their knowledge, but it also shows Google and other search engines that you’ve done your research. And the blogger or writer may even return the favor and link to your site.
Nothing strengthens a blog post like hard-to-argue-with, research-backed statistics from influential websites. Compelling stats help you build a more convincing and concrete argument that will get your readers thinking (especially when they’re from trustworthy sites they know and love).
4) Aim for scannable, longer posts
In an age of short attention spans (average of 8 seconds for humans), you would think shorter blog posts are the way to go. But search engines actually prefer longer, in-depth blog posts.
The longer your blog post, the greater its chance of appearing in the top search engine results. SerpIQ found that the 10th position pages have 400 fewer words than 1st position pages. Longer posts will rank more easily for your target keyword.
Think about it: the more content on the page, the more clues search engines have to figure out what your blog is about. We recommend writing a minimum of 300 words per blog post. This length gives search engines plenty of keywords and text to crawl and helps them understand what your blog is about.
The downside to longer blogs is that they may scare off your readers. We live in a world of skimmers and scanners. In a heat map analysis, CoSchedule learned that only 10-20% of their readers were making it to the bottom of their posts. So, the million dollar question is, how can longer blog posts appeal to today’s online readers?
You can write scannable, readable blog posts that hook online readers by tightening up your sentences and paragraphs. Turn a long-winded sentence into two. Keep your paragraphs to 2-3 sentences max.
Also, take full advantage of bulleted lists and subheadings that grab reader’s attention. By following these tactics, you’ll create blogs that are easier to read (especially on a mobile device!) and less intimidating to the scanner’s eye.
5) Don’t forget internal links
Linking to other pages or blog posts on your website helps search engines crawl your website and create a more accurate sitemap. It also helps your audience discover more of your content and get to know you as a trustworthy, credible source of information. Internal links to other valuable content keep users on your site longer, reducing bounce rate and increasing your potential for a conversion (and isn’t that what it’s all about?).
When linking to any pages on your website, or even outside sources, use natural language for your anchor text. Avoid using spammy or generic text such as “top-rated cheap laptops” or “click here.” Instead, use descriptive keywords that give readers a sense of what they will find when they click on the hyperlink, such as a search engine optimization guide.
Never force feed links to your top webpages, featured products or discounted items. These types of links will only turn off readers and could lead to search engines penalizing your website.
A word of caution: don’t overdo your internal linking or any linking. We know it’s tempting to link to all of your blogs and webpages, but only choose the ones that best enhance the point or insight you’re writing about in any particular blog. Always think about whether or not these links naturally tie in with the subject matter and if they will offer significant value to your readers.
If you want your blogs to rank at the top of page one (and why wouldn’t you?), your main focus should be on creating blogs that both users and search engines will love. By optimizing your blogs for both, you can earn higher rankings in SERPs, get more qualified web traffic and increase conversion rates. And wasn’t that the exact reason you started blogging to begin with?
What are your strategies for optimizing your blogs for SEO? Did we miss any? Share with us in the comments below.
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