Blog posts that rank on Google are blog posts that get to the point quickly and answer the searcher's query.
The most important thing to remember when you're writing an article that you want to rank on Google is that you're answering a search query. In other words, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the searcher.
When a searcher clicks on your snippet in the search results, all they want to know is: "does this article answer my query?" And that's why you need to signal to the searcher in the first hundred words that you understand the query and you have the answer.
If you don't convey that message in the first paragraph or two of your article, the searcher will click back to Google and look at the next article in the search results. The algorithm will record that as a 'bounce'. And that's going to push your page down the search results.
Because the algorithm interprets a bounce as meaning that your article didn't answer the query.
Of course, there are other things you need to do to get your article on Page #1 of Google. And we'll be looking at them below.
1. Keyword Research
Every new blog post should start with keyword research.
Why is that?
Because you need to know before you even set pen to paper (or make a single keystroke on your computer) that your blog post has a good chance of ranking on Page #1 of Google.
And if you want to do reliable keyword research you will have to spend money.
Paid keyword research tools vary in price:
- SEMrush – starts at $99.95 p/month
- Ahrefs Keywords Explorer – starts at $99 p/month
- Moz Keyword Explorer – starts at $99 p/month
- KWFinder – starts at $29 p/month
- Keyword Tool Pro – starts at $48 p/month
- SpyFu – starts at $39 p/month
- SECockpit – starts at $40 p/month
- LongTailPro – starts at $37 p/month
The one I use is KWFinder.
It’s easy to use and has a very intuitive layout. Sure, it doesn’t offer some of the functions that more expensive tools have (e.g. competitor research) but it serves me well – I get most of my blog posts on Page #1 of Google within a few days of hitting ‘publish’.
Once I have an idea for a blog post I type the main keyword into KWFinder and I look for three things:
- Keyword Difficulty
- Search Volume
- Domain Authority of pages that rank on Page #1 of Google
KWFinder ranks keywords according to how difficult it’s going to be to rank on Page #1 of Google for that keyword. A Keyword Difficulty (KD) score of 45 is usually my upper limit – above that and it’s going to be difficult to get on Page #1.
Of course, this will depend on the domain authority (DA) of your website. Mine is 25 (it's gone up since I wrote this article - my DA is now 38). But if your DA is higher than that you could go for keywords with a higher KD score.
I look for a search volume between 50 and 1500 searches per month. Less than 50 per month, and it’s not worth your while. At the other end of the scale, if the search volume is more than 1500 per month it’s hard to get on Page #1.
Finally I look at KWFinder’s SERPChecker (right side panel) to see the websites that rank on Page #1 for that keyword and what their Domain Authority (DA) is.
If the DA of all websites on Page #1 for that keyword is 50 and above, I won’t even attempt to rank for that keyword.
But if I see one or two websites with a DA in the low 30s (or in the 20s – even better) I’ll go for it!
This is the most important step in how to write blog posts that rank on Google.
When I research blog posts I have one key concept at the top of my mind: topical authority.
What does that mean?
It means that I want to write a blog post that covers every major topic that is covered by the top 5 web pages that rank on Google for that keyword.
That way, my article is going to have more topical authority than any other article on that topic. And that means I’ll have a very good chance of ranking on Page #1.
The research process is quite simple:
- Step One - Go to Google and type in your exact keyword
- Step Two - Scan through the top 5 web pages or blog posts that rank on Google for your chosen keyword or topic
- Step Three - Put those topics into a mind map
- Step Four - Sort through your mind map, dividing everything into topics and sub-topics (you should end up with 8 to 15 topics)
- Step Five - If you need to, do a second level of research and type into Google each of those topics (you can even go to the next level and type into Google each of your sub-topics, but you’re going to end up with a massive article)
- Step Six - Write 100 to 200 words on each of your topics
For mind mapping I use Simple Mind which has a free version and a paid version (the main difference is that the paid version lets you create a directory structure and folders so you organize your mind maps).
Your first mind map (Steps One to Three) will look something like this:
Your second mind map (Step Four) will look something like this:
3. Creating an Outline
The next step is to turn your mind map into an outline.
Select the parent topic of your mind map:
Then go to the top ‘Mind Map’ menu and click on ‘Export Outline’:
On the next menu, choose ‘Outline text’:
Open the saved text file, select all, and copy:
Then just drop that text into a Word document. You may have to move the topics around to get them in the right order.
Remove unnecessary spaces:
Then make the topics ‘Heading 1’ and the sub-topics ‘Heading 2’:
Next, number your topics and sub-topics in a hierarchy:
In your Word document, place your cursor at the top of the document, then go to the top menu and click on ‘Insert’ > ‘Index and Tables’:
On the next window, click ‘OK’:
Word will now insert a clickable Table of Contents at the top of your document:
That’s your article outline! (Note that you will probably want to remove the sub-topic headings from the published version – they are there only to keep you on track).
Every time you complete a section or a sub-section, add some text to that heading and then right-click on the Table of Contents and choose ‘Update Field’:
You’ll now be able to see in your Table of Contents which sections you’ve done:
If this seems overly complicated to you, feel free to use your own method.
The reason I’ve described it in such detail is that I believe ‘structure’ is your best friend when writing an article: the more structure you have the easier the writing will be.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say with a well developed structure, your article is already half-written: all you need to do is ‘fill in the blanks’.
Just write 100 to 200 words on each of your topics and you blog post is done!
4. Writing Your Blog Post
Writing for the Internet is an art all by itself.
You only have 3 to 5 seconds to pull your reader in. After that, they’ll hit the back button and you've lost them forever.
That’s why the opening sentence or the hook of your article is so important.
How to Write Blog Posts - The Hook
The hook is usually something that startles the reader.
Here are 3 common hook types used by successful bloggers:
Ask a question:
- Has this ever happened to you?
- How on earth do they do it?
- Ever notice how some blog posts just grab your attention with the very first sentence?
Get inside your reader’s head
- Frustrating isn’t it?
- Admit it.
- I know what you’re thinking…
- Contrary to popular belief…
- Some people say x, but I disagree
Check out my guest post on Successful Blogging for 19 different types of hooks that successful bloggers use in their opening sentences.
How to Write Blog Posts - The Introduction
Even with a good hook, you still need a compelling Introduction.
Most compelling Introductions use the following formula:
- The Problem
- The Solution
- The Promise
Identify a problem that the reader has, point out that there's a solution, and assure the reader that this article is going to solve that problem.
Here’s an example:
For more tips on writing good introductions see my article “How To Write a Compelling Intro For Your Next Blog Post” on Successful Blogging.
How to Write Blog Posts - Transitions
It’s one thing to pull your reader in, but you also need to keep them on the page – all the way to the end.
That’s where transitions come in.
Transitions are the lubricant in your article.
They’re the magic ingredient that makes your article seem effortless to read. One moment the reader is at the opening sentence, the next they’re reading the conclusion and they’ve got no idea how they got there.
In a nutshell, transitions are short connecting phrases that link one paragraph to the next.
Here are three examples of transition types that are often used in blog posts:
The ‘Keep Reading’ Transition
- Stay with me now…
- I know that’s a lot to take in, but bear with me
- Stick with me here, because…
The ‘Lifting the Veil’ Transition
- Let me break this down for you
- Here’s what I mean
- Let me clarify
The ‘Don’t Miss This’ Transition
- Now, this is important.
- Here’s the interesting part.
- It all boils down to this…
Have a look at my Smart Blogger guest post, How to Use Transitional Phrases to Keep Your Readers Sliding Down the Page.
You’ll find 13 different transition types (with examples of each) that successful bloggers use in their articles.
How to Write Blog Posts - The Conclusion
The Conclusion is the most neglected part of most blog posts.
Bloggers are often tired by the time they reach the end and they don’t put much effort into their conclusions.
But the conclusion is important – it’s your last chance to interact with the reader and it’s the best place to include a Call To Action (CTA).
We’re all taught in high school English classes that in the Introduction you say what you’re going to say, in the body of the article you say it, and in the Conclusion you sum what you just said.
So if nothing else, you could quickly sum up the main points of your article.
Here’s how I did it in a recent blog post:
Here are some other ways to wrap your blog post:
- Encourage your reader to put your tips or techniques into practice
- Ask the reader to share your post
- Encourage your reader to leave a comment
- Link to some further resources
You can see an example of (3) and (4) in this recent blog post of mine:
5. Editing Your Blog Post
I know you just want to hit 'Publish' and launch that article into the blogosphere!
But it’s amazing how many improvements you can make by going over your article with an editor’s eye.
If you really want to learn how to write blog posts that people rave about, you need to edit. Simple as that!
Here are some common writing errors that should be fixed before you hit ‘publish’:
Long sentences – see if you can cut your sentences in two. The Hemingway Editor will highlight sentences that are too long
Be Positive, not negative – instead of saying: “You don’t need to use your keyword more than 7 times…” try saying: “Use your keyword no more than 7 times…”
Remove redundancies – some phrases are part of everyday language but they make your writing flabby. Remove redundancies such as:
- (absolutely) essential
- (added) bonus
- combine (together)
Here’s a list of 200 common redundancies by Richard Nordquist.
Watch out for ‘Very’ and ‘Really’ – again, these words are so much a part of spoken English that it’s hard to keep them out of your writing.
But they very rarely add anything. For example: “My first year as a blogger was very difficult – it was a really steep learning curve”.
Try this instead: “My first year as a blogger was difficult – it was a steep learning curve”.
It may not seem like much, but removing these two words will make your writing tighter.
For more editing tips, see The Write Life’s 25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy.
6. Use Images
Research shows that articles with images get 94% more views than articles without.
Noah Kagan of OkDork found that blog posts containing at least one image get twice as many social media shares.
So images are a must!
Four kinds of images are commonly used in blog posts:
- Blog Title Graphic
- Graphs and Infographics
- Photos related to the topic
A blog title graphic is typically the first image you see when you visit a blog post and it’s also the image that people see when someone shares your blog post on a social media platform such as Twitter of Facebook.
See Design Your Own Blog's guide to creating your own blog title graphics for more tips on creating a blog title graphic.
Screenshots capture part of your computer screen and help readers understand what you’re doing.
Most of my articles are ‘how to’ guides so I use a lot of screenshots. As well as showing how to do something, screenshots are great for breaking up big blocks of text.
Until recently I used a free screen capture software called Skitch (made by the people who own Evernote).
But I’ve started using an application called Snag It. It’s a paid app and it’s not cheap, but if you use a lot of screenshots in your articles, it’s worth every penny. My workflow is now far more streamlined and that saves me a ton of time when putting together my articles.
My advice: if you can afford it, get it!
Graphs and Infographics are a great way of illustrating facts, research findings, and statistics. Of course, if you use someone else’s graph or Infographic always link to their website.
If you have large blocks of text and you just want to break it up with visual elements, you can always sprinkle your article with atmospheric photos that are related in some way to the topic of your post.
Here are some sites where you can get free stock images to use in your articles:
7. Insert Links
A key step in writing a blog post that ranks on Google is linking to other pages.
These could be links to pages on your own site (internal linking) or to pages on other people's sites (external linking).
If you’ve ever used the Yoast SEO plugin you’ll know that one of the tasks it prompts to do with each new blog post is Internal Linking.
Internal Linking helps build the navigational architecture of your site. It also passes link equity from one internal page to another.
And of course, it’s helpful to your readers. Let's say your blog post mentions site speed as an on-page SEO factor. And let's say you'e published a separate blog post on that very topic. By linking internally to that page you’re providing a valuable service to your readers.
Long story short: always include internal links in every blog post.
If you need help with internal linking, try using the new WordPress plugin, Link Whisper. For more information on how use this plugin, see my article: Link Whisper: Quick & Easy Way to Boost Your Internal Linking
A lot of people worry that external linking drains away your link equity and results in lower search engine rankings.
Another concern people have is that external links create an exit point where your visitors will leave you.
As far as SE rankings, the evidence indicates the opposite. Linking to high authority web pages that share the same topic as your page can actually help your SEO.
As for losing visitors, Rand Fishkin points out that Google, Digg, Reddit, Yelp, and Twitter all link out to other sites, as part of their core strategy but it hasn’t harmed them.
Here are some of the Pros of linking out (again, courtesy of Rand Fishkin):
- It makes your site a more valuable resource
- Search engines probably reward sites that link to relevant, high authority sites
- Linking out encourages others to link to you
- The Web is based on the idea of sites linking to each other (otherwise it wouldn’t be a web)
For an expert view on external linking, read Rand Fishkin’s article 5 Reasons You Should Link Out to Others From Your Website
External linking is a great way to reach out to fellow bloggers in the same niche and build relationships. Google likes it as well, as long it’s relevant. And if the external links are to high authority sites, it may even help your SEO.
8. Doing SEO for Your Blog Post
There are many ways to improve the SEO of your blog post.
These are my three favourite methods but you can find many more in my article SEO for Blog Posts – 21 Actionable Tips.
Write Long Form Articles
Long articles rank higher on Google. The evidence is overwhelming.
An analysis of the top 10 results for over 20,000 keywords shows that Google rewards long form content:
Embed a Video
Time on Page (aka ‘dwell time’) is one of the factors that Google monitors. The more time your visitors spend on your page, the higher your position in the rankings.
One of the best ways to get your visitors to spend more time on your page is to embed a video that deals with a topic in your article.
I’m going to put this technique into practice right here and now and give you a YouTube video on how to embed a video in your blog post:
Mention Key Influencers
This is another SEO technique I use with many of my blog posts. Remember I said that linking out to relevant authority sites is good for SEO? This technique is just an extension of that.
Once my article is published I usually have 7 to 15 links to other bloggers. Because the resource that I linked to was on Page #1 of Google, those bloggers are usually Key Influencers within their niche. And that’s what makes this technique so effective.
Let’s say I linked to an article by Brian Dean of backlinko. I go to Twitter and search for Brian’s Twitter handle:
Then I go to my Buffer account, write a quick message, and click ‘Share Now’:
9. Create an Eye Catching Headline
A simple but very effective formula for writing blog post titles (courtesy of Brandon Gaille of Blog Millionaire) is this:
(Odd Number) + (Superlative) + (Exact Keyword Phrase)
Here are some examples:
- 11 Best Writing Tips for Bloggers
- 17 Fastest Loading WP Themes
- 7 Easiest Ways To Build Traffic
You can find two other formulas for writing blog post titles in my article 7 Quick Tips For Getting More Traffic From Your SERP Snippet.
10. Give Your Blog Post a Call To Action
A blog post without a Call To Action (CTA) is like a bow without an arrow: it may have a lot of power in it, but it has no purpose.
Always ask yourself: “What do I want this blog post to do?”
The most common types of CTA in blog posts are:
- Subscribe to your list
- Share the post on social media
- Leave a Comment
But there are plenty of other CTAs for a blog post.
If you’re stuck for ideas, Anna Gotter’s article, 31 Call To Action Examples (And How to Write the Perfect One), will get you thinking.
So that’s how to write blog posts that rank on Google. Here again are the 10 key steps:
- Do Keyword Research
- Research Your Article (go for topical authority)
- Create an Outline (use mind mapping software)
- Write a Hook, Introduction and Conclusion and use plenty of Transitions
- Edit your Article
- Insert Images
- Insert Internal and External Links
- Do On-page and Off-page SEO
- Write a Catchy Headline containing your Keyword
- Include a Call To Action