Everywhere you look, someone is giving advice about making your blog posts as search-friendly as possible. What ever happened to just writing what you want to write and letting it rank as it happens? Well, you can still do that, but you’ll be missing out on some of the effectiveness of your posts. It’s really not that difficult to make your posts search-friendly, but I admit, a checklist can help.
Remember Keywords, but Don’t Over-Use Them
Keywords have a long and tricky history with bloggers. At various points they have been over-used, under-used and used just right, but with way too much time spent in research. Here’s the thing; you don’t need more than 1-2 uses of a keyword in a post for it to rank for that keyword, barring certain exceptions. Obviously, you probably want to use a specific keyword more than once in a 10,000-word blog post.
You can get away with ignoring keyword density from any scientific perspective. Just use the keyword as your subject, and you’ll naturally use it – and other related keywords – in the post as you write.
Still, if you absolutely must pay close attention:
- Once in the title. Your title is important for SEO, for user visibility and for understanding the subject of your post.
- A few times in the body, naturally. The biggest over-use offender here are the specific local keywords. There’s just no way you can use “SEO Writing Company in Norfolk Virginia” four times in a 300-word blog post naturally. The less natural the keyword sounds, the more you have to contort your writing to cram it in.
- Possibly in the URL. You should be using human-readable URLs whenever possible, and you may be able to fit a keyword, though not necessarily the exact long-tail keyword, in that URL.
- Once in the meta description. Remember, your meta description is what appears beneath your title in Google results. Another use of your keyword prominently in this position will tie in with the title and assure the reader your content is what they’re looking for.
Speaking of Meta
There are essentially just two meta fields you want to fill in for every piece you write. These are the title and the description. You can also do other optimizations in specific circumstances, depending on your goals.
- Meta title optimizations. Using a keyword is a big one, but there’s more to a good title. If you’re appending your brand name, put it at the end, so it doesn’t truncate content. You might also want to make your SEO title different from your post title, though keeping the same meaning.
- Meta description optimizations. Your description shouldn’t be too long, but it should be more conversational than the title itself.
- Anything that gets you a rich snippet. This might include the information necessary for Google to make a carousel result for you. It might include Facebook’s Open Graph attributes, to generate the appropriate preview on the social network. Study what options are available and implement them as necessary.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and no blog post is complete without several. Here are some guidelines for properly using images in blog posts.
- Include images that match the content. The less on-topic your images, the more they will derail users and drive them off. Use images that tell a story, or images that present data for the reader that supports the post.
- Add a keyword-rich alt description. The alt description serves two purposes; it describes the image in the event that it doesn’t load, and it serves as a bit of SEO for image search results. Use it accordingly.
- Make sure you have the rights to use the image. While you aren’t going to be penalized in search for stealing images, legal trouble down the line can cause serious issues.
Links are important, not just as means for users to navigate your site, but for establishing your place in the larger Internet as a whole. Use them properly to avoid search penalties and keep users around.
- Use internal links, even if you have a “related articles” box. Every page on your site should have ways for users to get to other related pages, even without clicking directly on your navigation. If you mention a topic you covered before, link to that past coverage.
- Link to external sources. You’re not alone online, and you need to acknowledge it. Link to sites you use as references. It’s even okay to link to direct competitors, in the right context.
- Nofollow links you don’t want to pass PageRank towards. The Nofollow attribute was made specifically so that you can link to sites you don’t want to formally acknowledge without boosting their ranking. Use it accordingly.
Google doesn’t read the Internet in the same way as the rest of us. Just go to Google’s tools and click to view your site as the Googlebot for an example. That said, you can implement some usability formatting for human readers, and some code to appease the bots.
- Make sure you have an H1 title. It’s a simple acknowledgement that this right here is the main title of the piece.
- Use H2 for further subtitles, never more H1s. Multiple H1s don’t screw with the bots like they used to, but it’s still a bad idea to over-use them.
- Bold key points throughout the piece. Bolding content makes it stand out, so readers – who skim more than they read – will be able to see the key points right away.
- Use italics and underlines for emphasis. The same reasoning applies here as it does for bolding.
- Avoid over-use of colored highlights. Too much color can make your site look spammy, and no one wants that.
- Use bullet or numbered lists where necessary. Really, they’re just easy ways to organize short bursts of information.
If your post meets all of these guidelines, you’re good to go. Don’t worry; most of it can be automated or will become second nature over time.
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