Writing a blog post sounds like a simple thing and it can be, but there’s a difference between writing a great post and writing a post that’s going to get a significant amount of search engine traffic. You need both to be successful as a blogger.
In this guide, we’ll cover the various techniques that should be used when you’re writing a blog post that you want to rank in search engines. These are fairly universal tips because they work across search engines like Bing and Yahoo, but you’re mostly concerned with Google’s guidelines because they have the largest share of search traffic on the internet.
A properly optimized blog post starts with keyword research. You’ve probably already heard of tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz Pro, but there are a few little-known keyword research tools that you should pay attention to.
These tools can provide keywords that other, more mainstream tools will not.
When you write a blog post, your article should be a minimum length of 1500 words, but preferably in the 1700 to 2300 word range on the low end. Content can be up to 4500 to 6500 words before Google stops caching the bottom end of it based on the size of the content, including images. They’re only going to cache so much of the content on your page due to the amount of data it takes up. You should err on the side of caution when crossing that 6500-word line.
It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to index the content on your page, but they’re not going to count anything that they don’t cache towards helping the page with SEO.
Your post title should contain your primary keyword, but also grab the visitor’s attention. When people search Google for something, they’re reading your SEO title, not your post title. The rest of your blog post can be optimized, but if your link isn’t getting a good click-through rate compared to everything else on the page, it’s not going to rank as well as it could.
Something you may want to avoid in your SEO title is your brand name. This will often make your SEO title not fit within Google’s guidelines, which is a maximum of around 50 to 60 characters. If your title is longer than this, it’s going to be truncated.
Whether your brand name can help or hurt your title’s relevance is dependent on your brand name. For example, a roofing company with “roofing” in its company name may benefit from having its brand in the title. If it’s something like “Brad’s Construction”, it won’t help much and will be considered less relative.
Too many instances of a keyword in the title may be looked at as over-optimizing, as well.
Your post’s URL should be the shortest version of the keyword you’re targeting.
For example, if the title of your post is “The Best Types of Residential Roofing Material”, your post’s URL slug should be something like “residential-roofing-material” or even “best-roofing-material”.
Your post’s URL should not be exactly the same as your SEO or post title, because you don’t want Google reading duplicate keyword signals.
To see a live example of this, you can take a look at this post to see how short a URL should be.
Meta descriptions are an old holdover from the days of meta-search engines when meta keywords were still used to determine rankings. There are a few search engines that still use them, but they’ve mostly gone the way of the dinosaur because Google (which is the largest search engine) still uses them, but they will pull phrases out of the content and ignore your meta description if it’s more relevant to the search result.
When writing a meta description, you want to have another version of your primary keyword in it along with other words and phrases that Google may view as relevant.
As an example, the meta description for a roofing company’s page about their roof replacement service may include “shingle replacement”, “re-roof”, “shingles”, “metal roofing”, etc.
When writing a meta description, you should make it something actionable and have a call to action within it to give searchers a reason to click your link instead of anyone else’s.
A good meta description should:
Heading tags (also known as “H tags”) are part of HTML code that has been used to outline content for decades. There exists only H1 through H6 and are intended to be styled from largest (H1) to smallest (H6).
Your post’s title should be the only H1 tag on the page. You can have as many H2s, H3s, etc on the page as you want, but there should only be one H1. This is one of the strongest signals to Google on what your page is about, so it’s important to make it right.
If you write your content in Google Docs, you’ll notice that it has built-in heading tag options for text formatting.
You can use a Google Chrome Extension called SEO META in 1 CLICK to view various types of SEO information on your page, including your headers. See the image below for an example:
The “people also ask” section of Google search results was introduced way back in 2015. In 2022, the section appears in about half of all searches and there’s almost no industry where they do not appear.
Optimizing your blog posts to get featured in this section is fairly simple, even if you may not get it every single time.
Here are some things you can do to optimize your blog post for People Also Ask.
Before including a question in your content, you should search Google for it to see if your query appears in Google’s suggestion list when you type it in. If it is, then your question is searched for enough to be worth having a section within your post.
Your subheadline should be the question you want to be featured for in PAA, while the paragraph directly beneath it should answer that question directly.
Use Question schema or QA Page schema markup so Google knows your page has specific questions and answers on it. If you’re using WordPress, Yoast’s FAQ Schema works for this, as well.
The FAQs should not be put into an accordion and in fact, no content on your site should be in an accordion. Google does not like it when content is hidden from the user or when you make them work to view it, such as when it’s buried in these types of content blocks.
Even though Google does this on their own search results pages (the “people also ask” section is an example of this), you don’t want to do it on your own site.
Your post should have a table of contents and jump links that can take them to the exact question they want to be answered. These links help users not only navigate longer posts to find what they’re looking for, but they can also show up in search results. It also gives you the ability to link directly to a section within that article because of the page jumps. This means you can actually build links to sections within your article instead of to the article’s primary URL.
The beauty of it is that when they click the link, they’ll land on the exact section they were looking for.
Optimizing for featured snippets in Google search is similar to how we optimize for People Also Ask. When optimizing for these, however, you should be aware that there is only one featured snippet available for a search result, whereas there can be dozens available for PAA.
This also means that if your post does capture the featured snippet, you won’t have another instance of your website show up on the first page of search results. If you get a PAA placement, your site can have a second instance of it appear.
Internal linking is an extremely important part of on-page SEO because it affects the entire site, not just one page.
Here are some of the benefits of internal linking:
Using keyword-rich anchor text on your internal links instead of external links provides you more control over those critical anchors than you would have otherwise. Over-optimization for keywords is real and having direct control of those anchors on your own site is a hedge against this.
When you’re linking to another page within your site, the anchor text that you use should match the intent of the title of that page.
Here’s an example: if the title of the page you’re linking to is “best Egyptian cotton sheets”, you could use “top Egyptian cotton sheets”, “highest rated Egyptian cotton sheets”, “most sought after Egyptian cotton sheets”, or even “Egyptian cotton sheets”.
What you really don’t want to do is use the same anchor text to link to a page twice. Using the same anchor text can lead to over-optimization, so it’s best to vary your anchor text while getting the same basic meaning across.
External linking is when you’re linking to other websites in your content instead of your own. These are also called “outbound links”. You should always be careful when linking to a website that you don’t know because you don’t want your site associated with one that Google considers spammy or deceptive.
How do you know what sites to link to? It’s simple.
First, check their backlinks with Ahrefs or SEMRush for low-quality links, for non-relevant sites and/or content. If you find links from non-relevant sites, that’s not a site you want to link to. This is especially true when you have requests to guest post on your site. Guest posts aren’t always from spammy sites, but it’s not uncommon, either.
Second, you want to make sure that the site you’re linking to is actually an authority on what you’re linking to them for. This sounds like it should be the first thing that you look into, but it’s not.
In days gone by, duplicate content used to mean content that was exactly the same. In 2022, that’s no longer the case. Instead of refusing to index only content that is an exact duplicate of something, they now place results that are substantially the same into a different index. This is known as “supplemental results”.
But, what do they mean by “substantially the same”?
If one page on your website shares the same basic text, layout, and images of another page on the web, it’s going to consider it to be a duplicate, even if it’s not exact.
They consider having multiple pages that are “substantially the same” within their index as being bad for the user experience, so they will typically pick the best-optimized pieces of content in conjunction with the authority of the site and eliminate the rest from active search results. The eliminated pages will be placed in supplemental results (formerly called “the sandbox”).
If you do a search for something in Google, odds are high that it’s going to show that there are several million results for that query. But, if you go to the bottom of the page and click the last page number available in the list of search results pages, then do it again on the next page, eventually, you’ll reach the end of the list much sooner than you thought you would.
As an example, if you do a search for “roofing contractors in Tennessee”, Google will tell you that there are around 5,600,000 million results for that query.
But, if you click on the last page of search results (in my case, it was page 18), Google will tell you that you’re on Page 18 of about 169 results.
Basically, Google has decided that the other pages that they have discovered relevant to that query are not quality enough to include in their normal search index. Therefore, they have placed them in supplemental results, even though they claim it doesn’t exist.
This is the next closest thing to your content being completely de-indexed and is therefore not where you want your content to be found. For this reason, you want to be very careful when you’re planning your content strategy so that you don’t accidentally create two pieces of content that are very similar to each other. This is called content cannibalization.
“EAT” stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness”. This was part of an update to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines back in 2014.
Google Search Quality evaluators were told back then that they needed to pay specific attention to the following:
What this means is that if you’re producing content for your website, it should be high quality and the person writing it should be able to be reasonably perceived as an authority on the topic. The content should also fit your website’s field.
To help your website and its content get high EAT scores, follow these guidelines:
If you don’t understand and practice the EAT algorithm doctrine, Google’s going to eat your site alive and spit it back out for publishing content you’re not an authority on. For example, if you’re writing in the health and medical niche and you don’t have the qualifications, you won’t rank well for these topics.
Optimizing the images in your blog posts has to do with them having a relevant file name, a new generation file type, and ideal alt tags.
Until recently, the best options that you had for images online were JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs. Today, the WebP format that was developed by Google is dominating image search results. This format is lossless and up to 26% smaller than PNGs.
Image file names used to be considered a “hack” that you could use to increase your content’s search visibility. It was a little-known secret but has since become standard practice for SEO regardless of the platform your site is built on.
The first thing to note about your image’s file name is that it should be relevant to the image’s actual content. It doesn’t make sense to name your image an exact match keyword that you’re trying to rank for if the image has next to nothing to do with that. When you name a file, you’re giving search engines a clue as to what that image could possibly contain.
You don’t want to stuff keywords into image names where they simply do not belong. When you do that, you’re making spammy edits to try and manipulate search engines into ranking your content better. This used to work, but no longer.
Your image name should also be short. You don’t want to write a full sentence to describe your image and then use that as the file name. Try to keep it between 1 and 5 words where possible.
Alt text was originally designed to be used with screen readers to help visitors whose vision is impaired. It also displays instead of the image in case the image doesn’t load on the page.
To write SEO-optimized alt text, here are a few things that you want to do.
You want to describe what is in the image without being too formal about it. Consider how you would describe the image to a friend. Not too long, not too short. You want to stay within a 125-character limit, though, as most screen readers will only read up to that point.
Anyone using a screen reader already knows that it’s an image, but something you can do is describe what type of image it is.
If you can reasonably put keywords in your alt text, you should do so. But, don’t put keywords in alt text if it doesn’t fit the image. Google’s algorithm knows when you’ve keyword-stuffed the images on your page. Be careful.
If you have multiple images on the page, you don’t want to use the same alt text on more than one of them. This is spammy and goes back to the point we made in the previous section. You also don’t want alt text and any of your page heading tags to be the same.
If an image doesn’t provide information, you don’t want to have alt text on it. This could be an image that doesn’t serve any purpose other than being a decoration on your page, whether it’s a page divider, an image that’s part of the page template, etc.
If you’re new to SEO or to producing web content in general, you may not be familiar with structured data. Here’s a list of things that would fit the definition:
There are more, but you get the general idea.
Structured data is data that is organized and made easy to read and interpret by search engine algorithms. To put it simply, Google likes pages that contain structured data better than pages that don’t contain any at all.
Because of this, you want to make sure that your pages contain structured data, even if it’s only bullet lists or tables.
If you want to go further than that, Schema.org has many types of data that you can place on your pages:
If you’re not comfortable writing the code for these, there are plugins that can be used with platforms like Wordpress that will do the heavy lifting for you. Schema Pro is a great solution for Wordpress.
As long as you follow these guidelines and Google’s hard rules for content, you’ll find success and traffic. Pay attention to details. You can use this piece of content as a checklist and everything should work out great for you.
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