Blog posts can serve a number of different purposes, but the main focus needs to be using your blog to educate your readers, so they feel more confident about making a buying decision.
This is why one of the oldest adages in content marketing is that you need to “write for people” first and think about SEO second.
Of course, this is usually easier said than done. While it’s a nice gesture to constantly educate your audience for free, you eventually need to see an ROI or you won’t be able to afford your blog for very long.
That’s why you have to learn how to write SEO-friendly blog posts. After all, if your blogs don’t attract traffic, they won’t help anyone (including your company).
How to Write Blog Posts for SEO in 9 Simple Steps
In this post, I'll give you nine helpful tips to generate organic traffic with blog posts. These are the same tips I use with this blog and the same ones we recommend to our clients.
1. Start with Your Keywords
In the classic film The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews begins her now-famous song “Do-Re-Mi” with some pretty sage advice: “Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” Beginning the process by brainstorming and researching the proper keywords is vital to your post’s success.
However, you don’t need to start from absolutely nowhere. You should work smarter and not harder here. A good strategy is to put your target keyword into Google to see what kind of articles are currently ranking so you understand what kind of article Google thinks is best for such queries.
In this way, you can easily collect a list of keywords that are closely related to your main target keywords (and variations).
Additionally, you should be intentional in the placement of these keywords. Here are the four main suggested locations to include keywords in your blog post:
- In the title of the post
- In the main headings of your post
- Within the content of the post
- In the conclusion
At the end of her song, Julie Andrews affirms, “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.” While knowing which target keywords to include in your SEO-friendly blog posts can be empowering and open many opportunistic doors, I offer a couple of words of caution:
Not All Keywords Are a Good Fit for Blogs
Keep in mind that some keywords simply aren’t any good for blog posts. For example, if you wanted traffic for the keyword “landing page template,” a blog post probably would not work. People are not reading blogs on the topic. Instead, when someone searches for that term, they clearly want to download a landing page template:
As you can see, aside from the “People also ask” suggestions, none of the results on the first page are blog posts.
So, always Google a potential keyword first to see if blogs show up. Ideally, you want the first page to be covered in them like this one:
Clearly, Google likes blog posts for this keyword.
Resist the Temptation to Keyword Stuff
While keywords help Google understand what your blog post about, too many of them tell Google that you’re trying to game the system.
And Google really, REALLY hates when you try to game the system.
To avoid “keyword stuffing”, don’t add keywords in the text thinking that the more you do so, the better your ranking will be. Only use keywords when they naturally fit.
If you find that you are struggling to cover the topic without using the same keyword over and over again, one solution is to use the Google keyword tool or SEMrush to search for alternatives.
For example, if I was writing a blog post about the “best Shopify apps”, I might supplement my text with some of these keywords I found using SEMrush:
I can also just rearrange the keyword. I could say, “the best app for Shopify” or “the app I like best for Shopify.” As long as it doesn’t change the actual meaning of the phrase, feel free to mix up your keyword terms a bit if that makes them sound more natural.
2. Base Your Outline on What’s Working for Your Competition
For The Sound of Music children, life was as simple as “do, re, mi.” Julie Andres reminds them, “Once you have these notes in your heads, you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up.” And so it goes with the wonderful world of SEO blog writing.
First and foremost: There’s no one bestblog structure for SEO.
However, there are some tried-and-true formulas you should consider for your next post.
According to research done by Conductor, here are the five most popular blog post structures for SEO:
- Listicles (e.g. “Top 10…”) – 36%
- Reader Addressing (e.g. “What You Must Do…”) – 21%
- How to (e.g. “How to Lose 10 Pounds…”) – 17%
- Normal (e.g. “Here’s the Right Way to…”) – 15%
- Questions (e.g. “What’s the Best Way to…”) – 11%
That being said, the best way to structure your blog post is – once again – by going to the first page of Google for your keyword and seeing what your competitors are doing.
For example, let’s go back to the keyword phrase “landing page tips.” Google that and you’ll see that the winning structure is clearly a listicle that highlights the top strategies.
To have the best chance of reaching the all-important people, Conductor suggests that you consider using specific numbers, like “117 Ideas” instead of “100 Ideas.” Or, you could take it even further with something like “117 ½ Ideas.” Creativity and uniqueness are key.
How to Make Your Blog Post Stand Out from Keyword Competitors
Your goal is not simply to recycle what the competition is doing.
You want to stand out to your crowd by giving readers information they cannot get elsewhere.
Use this as an opportunity both to use keywords and to pull real-life examples (e.g. case studies) into your blog posts. Even if you do not have case studies specific to your business, you can search online for data or other examples to bring something unique to the table.
Providing something different is also a great way to organically earn backlinks. Other sites are more likely to link to yours if you offer something they can’t reference by linking to competitors.
In a world where “you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up,” you will be wise not to offer the same information as everyone else.
3. Optimize the Word Count of Your Blog Post
One of the most common questions about blog posts is, “How do I know how many words my blog post should include?”
According to data from HubSpot, the ideal length for an SEO-friendly blog post is between 2,100 and 2,400 words.
That being said, just like with keywords, you should really check the first page of Google to see what your competitors are doing. At the very least, you want to beat the average word-count length with your blog post, but, whenever possible, try using more words than everyone else.
You might also be wondering What if my blog post is too long for readers?
As far as SEO is concerned, there’s no such thing as “too long” when it comes to blog posts. If you’re basing your word count on what’s working for competitors on the first page, you shouldn’t have to worry about readers being turned off by a longer post.
Plus, 43% of your audience is only going to skim your blogs — regardless of word count. Do not fret or overthink the length. Just make sure your post will compare favorably to your competition on the first page — and then take the opportunity to utilize the tips in this post.
4. Write for Readers Who Scan
The other half of knowing what to write is knowing how to format your blogs.
In a nutshell: keep your paragraphs short.
Large bodies of text are visually unappealing. They make the reader think that it’s going be a lot of work to get through the entire post. Cutting the text into bite-sized pieces makes the entire post seem more manageable.
There’s also a really good chance that the majority of your readers will access your page on a mobile device. Keeping paragraphs shorter (about 2-3 sentences long) will ensure everything fits on these smaller screens.
You can also mix up your formatting to help draw the reader’s eyes down the page. Here are some simple options I recommend clients use:
- Bold words catch your readers’ attention.
- Underlined phrases emphasize terms.
- Bulleted lists to help make your copy more scannable.
Sometimes it truly is as simple as “do, re, mi.”
5. Make Good Use of Header Tags
To help you in your quest to keep your blog scannable, take advantage of header and subheader tags that keep your content separated into concise paragraphs.
By organizing your blog post with clear headers and subheaders, it’s easier for those scanning visitors of yours to understand what your article is about and, thus, why it’s worth reading.
There are six different types of headers:
- H1 Tags, which go at the very top of your blog and tend to be similar or even identical to your blog’s title – never use more than one H1 tag.
- H2 Tagsserve as the main subheaders, cutting your blog post into more manageable sections. Unlike H1 tags, you can use as many H2s as you like.
- H3 Tags are used to subdivide the content that falls under a single H2.
- H4, H5, and H6tags continue this subdividing. If you have information that deserves its own distinction but not necessarily its own subsection, you’ll use H3s, 4s, 5s, or 6s.
Fortunately, content management systems like WordPress and Shopify make it incredibly easy to turn text into these types of headers. Here’s what it looks like to select the right header in Shopify:
Use Headers to Gain SEO Points
Of course, I didn’t include this tip simply because it’s good copywriting advice. It’s also an easy way to optimize your blog post for SEO. When Google's search engine crawlers review your blog post it will pay special attention to these headers. Just like the chapter titles of a book will give you a good idea of what it’s about, Google crawls the words in your headers for similar information
So, make it a point of including keywords in these tags provided you can do so naturally.
I usually recommend that clients put their main keyword in their H1 and at least one of their H2s. For H3s, H4s, and the rest, I tend to be more relaxed about it and not as focused on SEO. As long as they’re compelling and entice the visitor to keep reading the blog post, I’m happy.
6. Use Links to Show Google Where You’re Getting Your Information From
If you want to use your blog posts to attract consistent traffic from Google, you need to show the search engine that your blogs are dependable resources their users can trust.
How do you do that?
Well, one way is to credit other websites when you use them for information. Using “outbound links” like this tells Google that you’re not just giving your audience credible content, but that you’re so dedicated to helping your readers that you’re willing to share other great resources with them.
For even better results, use “anchor text” that helps Google understand the context in which you’re referencing the resource. For example, in this blog post about writing product descriptions, I referenced a copywriting concept called the “forehead slap test.” So, when I referenced a resource that the reader could click on to learn more, I used that as the anchor text:
Another option is to "interlink" to pages on your own website.
This is a great way to share your previous work, as embedding older blog posts within your current work will make it easy for readers to find it.
And, just like anchor text helps Google understand the pages you link to on other sites, using the right words when interlinking to your own pages will help with SEO as it gives the search engine a better idea of what they’re about.
Two Simple Rules to Remember for SEO-Friendly Anchor Texts
Hopefully, you don’t find the concept of anchor texts to be too daunting.
Still, there are two rules for using anchor texts in your blog posts that I want you to remember because I see other companies break them all the time:
- Avoid vague descriptors like “click here” or single words like “blog” that don’t give Google a lot to go on
- Don’t keyword stuff here, either. Because Google pays special attention to anchor text, it can be tempting to use keywords to help the pages you’re interlinking to. The same rule applies here: onlyuse keywords if they’re a natural fit.
7. Use Images and Videos
As you’ve probably heard, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
Turns out, that’s no mere cliché. In fact, the human eye processes images 60,000 timesfaster than it does text.
But there’s a twist: only by using impactful images in your blog posts can you make people remember your articles longer than they would have if the piece wasn’t accompanied by a picture.
Plus, a large portion of your readers will find an information source more trustworthy if it contains images.
A good rule of thumb is to add at least 2-3 images in your blog post and optimize each one for Google.
You do so by using alt text (alternative text) a type of code that describes an image on a web page. In this way, it’s similar to anchor text.
However, the wording isn’t visible on the page itself.
The reason it’s there is because search engines cannot really “read” images. Instead, they rely on alt text to determine what the image is. Finding the perfect image for your blog post doesn’t have any SEO value if you can’t tell Google what it is.
Effective use of alt text with your images also opens the floodgates to accessing Google Image’s rankings. This is no small feat considering Google Images is actually the world’s second-largest search engine. It’s responsible for 20.45% of all online searches, putting it ahead of YouTube, Bing, and other search engines combined. So, a picture isn’t just worth 70,000 words. If you know how to optimize it for SEO, it can be worth plenty of clicks, too.
Mandatory Reminder About Keyword Stuffing
Surprise, surprise, the prohibition on keyword stuffing applies here, too.
One of the most important reasons Google wants alt text is because it can relay the information to people who are visually impaired. So, when someone’s screen reader comes to the image, the software simply speaks the alt text.
What Google doesn’twant is for people to use images as an easy opportunity to pack their posts with keywords the majority of their audience won’t see.
I know you know this by now, but, one more time: only use keywords in alt text if you can do so naturally.
8. Use Successful Blog Posts to Boost New Posts' Rankings
This is another way to use internal linking to improve your blog posts’ rankings. If one of your current posts is already ranking well, you can link to your new post from it. Doing so tells Google, “Here’s another reliable blog post.” It’s an easy way to start off your new post on the right foot.
Online marketing extraordinaire Neil Patel recommends that conducting this kind of interlinking strategy once ever 5-10 posts:
However, Neil is also a content-publishing machine. If you’re only publishing once a week or so, I’d recommend you add another 15-20 minutes to that process in order to go through your backlog of ranking posts and start interlinking.
Don’t have any blog posts that are currently ranking well?
I’d still recommend you make time for interlinking. A well-interlinked site makes for a better user experience – easier to navigate – and that’s always good for SEO.
9. Update Your Blog Posts Regularly
Finally, nothing is written in stone online.
As online marketers, this is a huge advantage for us. We can always go back and make changes. To revise literally means to “see again” and to re-vision what’s possible.
If you’re a more experienced blogger and want to dust off some of your old posts, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, reviewing old content should be about looking for new ways to improve its rankings.
Has it dropped its rank since the last time you checked? If so, try to figure out why Google is now favoring another post.
Maybe you’ve simply learned something more about the topic since you published it or new information has come out that would complement the original work.
Whatever the case, part of making a blog SEO-friendly is making sure it remains accurate and helpful. The moment it loses those two traits – for whatever reason – expect Google to start treating it accordingly.
Once your new (or revised) blog post has had a few months, see if there’s anything you can do to improve its rankings.
Create Multiple SEO-Optimized Blog Posts for Best Results
The best thing marketers can do to rank blog posts is to remember one simple maxim: practice makes progress.
Don’t be afraid to create numerous SEO-friendly blogs again and again...and again. These days, you probably won’t rank a blog post on your first try if you don’t already have a track record of doing so. But keep optimizing them like we discussed above, and you’ll eventually taste success.
Of course, if you have any questions about writing blog posts so that Google – and people – absolutely love them, feel free to contact us.
Until then, so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!