SEO for blog posts is the art of tweaking your articles so they rise to the top of the search results.
In this article I show you:
- how to optimize your SERP snippet for maximum click through rate (CTR)
- how to format your post for maximum reader engagement and 'time on page'
- the 7 key places your keyword must appear
1. Do Keyword Research Before You Start Writing
This is easily the most important tip on SEO for blog posts – do keyword research before you even choose the topic for your blog post.
And target keywords that you can rank for!
2. Find Long Tail Keywords
Prior to August 2017 I was writing blog posts on whatever I thought was a ‘good’ topic. Basically, I wrote whatever I felt inspired to write about.
I was doing no keyword research.
Then I started basing my blog posts on long tail keywords – keyword phrases that contain at least 3 words.
This technique increased my organic traffic by over 400% in less than 8 weeks:
2.1 Use KWFinder
The tool I use is KWFinder.
KWFinder ranks keywords on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being easiest to rank for and 100 being most difficult to rank for.
I've found that I can almost always get on Page #1 of Google for a keyword with a difficulty score of 42 or below.
But this will depend on your Domain Authority (DA). My DA is 22 (not particularly high).
If your DA is lower than that, you’ll have to choose a lower cut-off point for the keyword difficulty score.
On the other hand, if your DA is higher than 22 you’ll be able to target keyword phrases with a higher difficulty score.
For more details on how to use KWFinder, read my article, Using the KWFinder Tool To Get On Page #1 of Google.
But there’s another factor that will affect your ability to get on Page #1 of Google...
2.2 Number of Results in Google Search
The number of results in Google search is an index of how competitive that keyword is.
For example, when I type in to Google the search query 'content marketing' I get 2.3 trillion results:
But when I type in 'content marketing for lawyers', there are only 80 million results:
Similarly, when I type in 'parenting tips', there are 1.1 trillion results:
But when I type in 'parenting tips for single fathers', there are only 12 million results:
It will be much easier to rank for 'content marketing for lawyers' than to rank for 'content marketing'.
And it will be much easier to rank for 'parenting tips for single fathers' than to rank for 'parenting tips'.
So always check the number of results in Google Search.
There's no hard and fast rule about how many results can show in Google before the keyword is too competitive. This figure will vary depending on what niche you are in.
But it's a good metric to use to compare the competitiveness of keywords within the same topic or the same niche.
3. Use Your Keyword Phrase in These Places
You need to use your keyword phrase in a few strategic places in your blog post.
Here they are:
3.1 The Title of the Article
If possible, start the title tag with your keyword:
3.2 The Slug of the Article or Post
The slug is the portion of your web page URL that comes after the domain name:
3.3 At Least One Heading
Try to include your keyword phrase in at least one heading or sub-heading.
3.4 The Body of the Article
Include the keyword phrase 3 – 5 times throughout the body of your article or post.
For keyword density, use the free Yoast SEO plugin and follow the plugin’s recommendations.
3.5 The Meta Description
Include the keyword phrase in the meta description, as close to the beginning as possible:
3.6 The First 100 Words
Include your keyword phrase within the first 100 words of your article. This is not only for Google’s benefit but also for your visitors.
The first thing they'll do is scan the opening paragraphs looking for the search query they typed in to Google. They want to see right from the outset that your post is going to answer their problem.
If they don’t see that keyword phrase in the first 100 words, chances are they’ll click away.
And that increases your bounce rate which in turn will cause Google to start moving your page down the SERPs (search engine results page).
3.7 The Conclusion
Given that the Conclusion sums up the whole article, it's more than likely that the algorithm expects to find your main keyword in the Conclusion.
If your focus keyword doesn't appear in the Conclusion, the algorithm may well give your article a lower score for keyword relevance.
4. Create a Structure
Structure is another key aspect of SEO for blog posts.
There’s quite a bit of evidence that Google looks for structure in your blog post – the more structure, the higher you rank (see this article by Yoast for more about text structure and SEO)
Structure is good for your readers as well. It helps them understand what they’ll get from reading your post.
I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to structure.
I believe that once you have a structure your article is basically written – what remains is just filling in the blanks.
In fact, I’m so hooked on structure that creating a Table of Contents in my Word document is the first thing I do when writing a blog post:
You don’t need to go that far.
But the more headings and sub-headings you have, the better Google will understand and like your blog post.
5. Use Short Paragraphs
Correct paragraph structure and length is a vital aspect of SEO for bloggers.
Because it determines the readability of your blog post. The more readable your post, the more time people will spend on your page.
And the the more time people spend on your page, the higher you'll rank.
5.1 Use One Paragraph for Each Idea
Remember that a paragraph is supposed to deal with a single idea.
Ideally, your blog post should consist of a string of ideas, each in its own paragraph, connected by transition phrases.
When you write like this, your reader will understand where you’re going and will stay on the page longer.
Google’s algorithm will notice that and give you a higher rank.
5.2 Short Paragraphs Keep People on the Page
Use much shorter paragraphs than you would offline.
Each paragraph should be no more than 3 short sentences. Many of my paragraphs are just one sentence.
This will keep your readers on the page longer and that in turn will improve your SEO.
6. Use Headings and Sub-Headings
Headings and sub-headings are a key element in SEO for blog posts.
This is why:
6.1 Headings Help Your Reader
As I mentioned in the section on ‘Structure’, headings help your readers understand what your article is about and whether it’s worth reading.
In a nutshell, lots of headings = good structure.
6.2 Headings Help Google
Headings also help the Google algorithm understand what your content is about and that's going to improve your SEO.
6.3 Use One Heading for Every 3 to 4 Paragraphs
People don’t like big blocks of text on the Internet – try and include a heading for every 3 to 4 paragraphs.
7. Use Transitions
Transitions are what connect one paragraph to the next. They're like bridges, connecting one idea with the next.
Here's why you need them:
7.1 Transitions Increase Reader Engagement
They’re also like signposts pointing the way ahead. Transitions tell your reader where you’re taking them. They keep your reader engaged with your article.
For more information on how to use transitions in your blog posts, see my article on SmartBlogger:
7.2 Transitions Result in More Time on Page
Better reader engagement means more time on page.
And Google measures that.
If readers are spending more time on your page, Google is going to move you up in the rankings.
8. Write Long Form Content
Google gives preference to content that is comprehensive.
In other words, content that covers a topic from A to Z.
And that means long-form content will beat short-form content.
The Yoast SEO plugin recommends a minimum of 300 words. But I regard that as an absolute bare minimum.
I never write an article of less than 1000 words.
Backlinko analysed 1 Million Google search results and found that the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.
I recommend aiming for at least 1200 words per blog post.
9. Use Internal Linking
Linking to other content on your website will improve the SEO of your article.
Because links are vital to search engines. Google crawls your site using a bot (short for robot) that starts from your homepage.
But the Google Bot can only find a page if it is linked to from another page.
More than that, Google uses internal links on your site to understand what topics your site covers, how they relate to each other, and which is your most important content.
How many internal links per page?
There’s no recommended ratio of links to text (e.g. 1 link per 200 words) but it’s generally agreed that more than 100 internal links per page is getting into dangerous SEO territory.
The best approach is to keep it natural – every time your page contains a keyword phrase (e.g. ‘list building’, ‘content marketing’, ‘blogger outreach’) that you’ve dealt with in more detail in another article, link to it.
10. Link Out To Authority Sites
We all know that having other sites linking in to your article is important for SEO.
But did you know that linking out to authoritative content related to your article is also SEO positive?
Rand Fishkin writes that Google probably looks at the sites you link to as a way of gauging the quality of your content – high quality content links out to other high quality content.
11. Embed a Video
The amount of time visitors spend on your page, known as “dwell time“, is almost certainly one of the factors that Google measures.
And it stands to reason. The longer someone spends on a web page after typing in a search query the more likely it is that the web page answered their query.
One easy way to get people to spend more time on your page is to embed a YouTube video on your page.
Just go to YouTube and type in the keyword phrase of your article.
To find an embeddable video for this article, for example, I typed in “seo for blog posts”.
In the results, look for a reputable authority you’re already familiar with.
Failing that, look for a video with a good like/dislike ratio.
In my case, I chose a video by Rand Fishkin.
First click on the ‘SHARE’ link at the bottom right corner:
Then click on the ‘EMBED’ link:
Finally, select and copy the iframe code and drop it into your WordPress text editor:
12. Mention Key Influencers in Your Article
You may have noticed that in this article I keep referring to Key Influencers within the SEO niche.
As soon as this article is live I’ll be sending a tweet to each of them along these lines:
@name-of-influencer Hey [Name], just to let you know that I mentioned you in my latest blog post: https://robpowellbizblog.com/seo-for-blog-posts/ Keep up the great work
Every time I do this, the shares come pouring in, usually within a few seconds of the tweet going out.
I often have 50 social shares within a few minutes of my article going live.
And guess what?
Yes, Google takes note of that. Social shares create authority for your article – they’re like backlinks.
This is a key element in my strategy for getting a new blog post on Page #1 of the SERPs.
13. Use Images
In SEO for blog posts, images are often overlooked.
Images break up your blocks of text and make your article more readable.
They also give you the opportunity to put your keyword phrase in the ALT tag of each image.
Include your keyword phrase in the filename of each image.
When I started blogging I used a naming convention for my images like this: art-65-01.png.
That doesn’t help Google understand what the image is about and it’s not SEO friendly.
So I’m now in the process of going through my existing articles and changing the image filename structure to this: keyword-phrase-01.png.
It's a lot of work but as with most things on WordPress, there's a plugin that will do it for you: Media File Renamer plugin
Watch this video to see how to do it:
14. Customize Your SEO Title
When you’re optimizing your article for SEO, you need to be aware of the ‘Google SERP Snippet’.
This is what it looks like:
The Google Snippet consists of:
- The page or post title
- The URL of the page or post
- The meta description
- Site Links
This is what people will see in the search results.
It’s important to realize that the title (2) and the meta description (4) are not necessarily identical to what’s in your article.
To control what appears in the Google Snippet click on the ‘Edit Snippet’ button in the Yoast module at the foot of the edit page for your article or post:
Yoast will then show you a ‘Snippet Preview’:
If you do nothing, Google will simply pull in the data it needs to populate the SEO title and the meta description.
But it’s much better to set the title and description yourself.
Remember, getting onto Page #1 of the SERPs is only the start – you still need to persuade people to click on your listing and not on someone else’s.
And the way you do that is by crafting a compelling SEO title and a compelling meta description (more on that below).
15. Use Short Slugs and Short URLs
15.1 Use Short Slugs
The slug is the portion of your page or post’s URL that comes after your domain name:
As Katharina Bscheider writes, Google prefers short URLs.
So the shorter your slug, the better for SEO purposes.
I try to keep my slugs no more than 4 words in length – the keyword phrase I’m targeting.
15. 2 Use Short URLs
Short URLs perform better than long URLs in SEO.
Moz recommends keeping your URLs under 100 characters.
But Backlinko says URLs should be even shorter:
Backlinko studied the average length of URLs in the top 10 positions across more than 1 M Google search results.
The average characters per URL for Number #1 rankings in the SERPs was 50 characters.
For more help on creating your ideal URL structure, see my article What Is The Best WordPress Permalink Structure?
16. Use LSI keywords
Latent Semantic Indexing keywords are words that are semantically related (i.e. similar in meaning) to your primary keyword.
LSI keywords are simply words that tend to cluster together.
Google and other search engines use LSI keywords to work out what your page is about – is your article talking about apples as in the fruit, or Apple as in computer?
As algorithms become more sophisticated, keyword density is becoming a thing of the past – Google is now focused on total context.
What does this mean for you?
That your page will rank higher for your main keyword if you help Google understand the context of your page.
And the way to do that is to sprinkle your blog post with LSI keywords.
For more information on this topic, see my article: What Are LSI Keywords – 7 Things You Need To Know.
17. Install the Yoast SEO Plugin
Throughout this article I’ve referred to the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.
I use it to make sure that every blog post I write is optimized for a Page #1 ranking.
It’s a very useful plugin and I haven’t seen any other free SEO plugin that comes even close.
If you don’t already have it installed, I urge you to do so.
18. Write an Engaging Meta Description
The meta description is worth spending some time on.
You have 160 characters in which to persuade a Google user that your link is more relevant to their query than any of the others.
The first thing to do is include your keyword phrase right at the beginning of your meta description.
That’s the first thing the user wants to know – is your content relevant to the search query they typed in.
In crafting a compelling meta description, the normal copywriting rules apply:
- Use action words
- Offer a solution to a problem
One final tip:
Google will truncate your meta description at about 160 characters with an ellipsis (…)
Instead of leaving it up to Google to decide where the ellipsis occurs, take control and insert your own ellipsis. That way, you can use the ellipsis as a device that makes the user want to read more.
In the example below I’ve placed the ellipsis just at the point where the reader is curious to know what comes next:
In a nutshell:
Insert an ellipsis into your meta description as a teaser that encourages the user to click through to your web page to see the rest of the sentence.
19. Write a Compelling Title
The statistics say that 80% of people will never read beyond the headline of a blog post (Brian Clark of Copyblogger).
That’s why the title or headline of your article is absolutely crucial – it determines whether people read your blog post.
Here are some tips to ensure that your headline pulls in more readers:
- Use numbers in your blog post title (e.g. ‘21 Tips On…’ or ‘5 Ways to Increase Your Traffic by 321% in 30 Days’)
- Add modifiers to your title, such as: ‘in 2017’ (use the current year), ‘best’, ‘guide’, ‘review’.
- Keep your title less than 65 characters in length – that’s the viewable limit on a Google Snippet in the search results
- Make sure your article title is enclosed in H1 tags (check this by viewing the source code for your page).
For some great tips on how to how to title blog posts, see these articles:
- Heidi Cohen – The Secret to Headlines That Attract Readers & Shares Every Time
- Gaurav Jain – How to Write Catchy Blog Post Titles That Get Clicked Like Crazy
- Blog Tyrant – A Huge Guide on How to Write Effective Post Titles
- Nathan Ellering – Here Are The 101 Catchy Blog Title Formulas That Will Boost Traffic By 438%
20. Make It Mobile Friendly
The majority of Google’s users are now doing searches on mobile devices.
Google has responded by giving preference in the search results to sites that are mobile responsive. As SearchEngineLand notes, content that’s not deemed mobile-friendly will not rank as well.
If you want to check whether your site is mobile friendly, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
While most premium WordPress themes are now mobile friendly, here’s a list (hand-picked by WPBeginner) of 43 mobile-friendly WordPress themes.
21. Improve Your Site Speed
According to Moz, site speed is one of the factors Google uses to rank pages – the faster your site speed, the higher your pages will rank.
So how fast should your site load?
If your website loads in 1.5 – 2 seconds, that’s a good site speed.
You can test your site speed at Web Page Test.
If you need to increase your site speed, try using a ‘caching plugin’.
Caching plugins work by saving dynamically generated HTML files so they can be re-used instead loading them afresh with every page visit.
This means that whenever someone revisits your site, instead of having to load the PHP scripts from scratch, the files are served from the cache.
The plugin I use for this is W3 Total Cache. It’s free and with over 1,000,000 active installs, you can be pretty sure it does a good job.
22. Use Social Sharing Buttons
One of the metrics that Google uses to rank search results is social media shares.
Some people call them the ‘new backlinks’.
So make it easy for your visitors to share your content.
Beyond this obvious SEO benefit, share buttons can reduce bounce rate.
How does that work?
When a visitor arrives on your page from a search engine and they see that 55 people have already shared your article on social media, that tells the visitor that this is content worth reading.
They’re more likely to stay around and less likely to click back to the search engine. That reduces your bounce rate which in turn will give you a higher ranking.
For a good summary of the best social share button plugins for WordPress, see BloggingWizard’s 11 Best Social Sharing Plugins For WordPress In 2017
23. Link To Your New Blog Post From An Existing Blog Post
If you have an existing blog post on the same general topic, which already ranks on Page #1 of Google, insert a link form that blog post to your new blog post.
The existing blog post that ranks on Google will pass on 'link juice' (aka 'link equity') to your new blog post.
Here's a quick summary of the 23 SEO for blog post tips:
- Do Keyword Research Before You Start Writing
- Use Long Tail Keywords
- Create a Structure
- Use Short Paragraphs
- Use Headings and Sub-Headings
- Use Transitions
- Write Long Form Content
- Use Internal Linking
- Link Out to Authority Sites
- Embed a Video
- Mention Key Influencers in Your Article
- Use Images
- Customize Your SEO Title
- Use Short Slugs
- Use Short URLs
- Use LSI keywords
- Install the Yoast SEO Plugin
- Write an Engaging Meta Description
- Write a Compelling Title
- Make It Mobile Friendly
- Improve Your Site Speed
- Use Social Sharing Buttons
- Link to Your New Post from an Existing Post
Follow these SEO for blog post tips and watch as your pages rise through the search results!
- What Are LSI Keywords – 7 Things You Need To Know
- How To Get Your Blog Post on the First Page of Google in 2019
- What Is Google RankBrain and Will It Replace Backlinks?
- How To Find a Blogging Niche in 2019 – The Beginner's Guide
- How To Find Seed Keywords In Your Niche & Increase Topical Authority
- 17 Best Search Engine Positioning Strategies for 2019