First, let’s look at why blog SEO best practices are so important.
There are three main factors that contribute to a high ranking website. Content (quality, relevance and frequency), PR (backlinks from preferably strong domains to your site) and SEO.
Apart from not following best practice, the main problem that freelancers and companies have with SEO is that it takes time and doesn’t produce instant results. But, if you’re looking for medium to long-term website growth, ignore SEO at your peril.
Google aims to give people searching online the most relevant result. They do this by sending out what they call a “spider,” which “crawls” your site looking for indicators of how suitable a match it is to the search.
They also look at your keyword, headlines, subheadlines, images, content and other things like website domain strength. SEO is your way to tell Google, “This is what this article is about and why you should rank it highly”.
If you don’t, your article will be doomed to languish in the depths of the rankings, unless you’re writing about something so obscure that there’s hardly any competition online.
Great news for people writing about how to find the love of your life on the planet Zorg, but not so great if you’re in a market with a lot of competition both at home and abroad.
Before making a start to the checklist, you want to ensure that you’ve installed and activated a sitemap plugin like Google XML Sitemaps. This really helps search engines to analyze your site better, and so, return your blog posts higher.
And make sure you have also installed an SEO plugin – you can’t go far wrong with the Team Yoast plugin. (I’m not affiliate marketing for either of these plugins by the way.) If your site isn’t on WordPress there should be equivalents to Yoast available.
OK, so you have those two plugins installed now, right? You’re committed to producing original, high-quality content that solves your ideal client’s problems? You’ve got a plan in place for PR and backlink building?
Warning: buying backlinks is not a good idea because Google will ban yo’ ass into next year. Seriously. They will almost certainly find out and punish your site. And it’s a long road back from that dungeon if your site is thrown in there.
Alright, let’s get down to it.
Blog SEO best practices: your simple 15-step checklist
1. Nail your keyword research
Each blog post is underpinned by your “focus keyword” – this is the most important term in the post and it’s what tells search engines what it’s about. Well, it will if you use your focus keyword in the article in the right way. There is a relevant keyword bar in the SEO section of each post on your post edit page.
You can carry out some quick keyword research on your post with Google’s helpful Keyword Planner. You can also find out what people are searching for by typing in a search and scrolling down to the bottom of the page to see similar, popular search terms. These can be used as keywords in your article.
In this example, I searched “entering foreign markets.”
Ideally, your blog should be made up of posts with a mix of short, medium and longtail keywords.
Short – one-word focus keyword terms – might be used in less competitive search categories.
Medium (two to three words) and longtail keywords (four+) would be used in more competitive areas where you want to be more specific.
2. Write a great headline
Your headline is what gets people to click on your article instead of all the others bobbing about in the sea of content, so make it good. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to strike a balance between getting creative and including your focus keyword. Your keyword absolutely must be in the headline.
3. Get your H tags right
These are the subheadings in your article. Here is the code formula for a H2 tag in the “Text” tab of your WordPress post dashboard: <h2>SUBHEADING HERE</H2>
H tags are essential. They say to Google, “Look, this is really important!” So you really want to get your focus keyword included, or similar search terms to your focus keyword.
4. Include your keyword in the image alt text
Once you include an image in your post, click on it and make sure you include the focus keyword or a similar search term in the “Alt Text” section. Again, it helps search engines to “crawl” the post better, and rank it higher if it ticks the boxes that they are looking for to answer the searcher’s query.
5. Add your keyword to the first paragraph
Ideally, repeat the keyword in the very first paragraph of your post. It’s even better if it is in bold or italics. The challenge is in ensuring your content flows and sounds natural while optimizing it for search engines.
6. Write a great meta description
Your SEO meta description should include the focus keyword and tell readers why your post is so brilliant. Focus on these two objectives when writing it and you won’t go far wrong.
7. Write strong permalinks (URL structure)
The root of your permalink is the permanent website URL – woodscopywriting.com/blog in the case of the page where this post was first published.
The extension is what comes after. Generally, it’s a good idea for the blog post title to be your extension. And ideally, it should also include the focus keyword. My focus keyword for this article is, you guessed it, “Blog SEO best practices.” And this is what forms the permalink extension.
Permalink root: woodscopywriting.com/blog
Permalink extension: blog-seo-best-practices
Final permalink address: woodscopywriting.com/blog/blog-seo-best-practices
Quick tip: Keep the extension as short as possible. Long URLs are best avoided.
8. Write a great social media headline
This is usually the same as the blog post title, but sometimes you might want to make it shorter. Because if it goes over a certain character length, it might get cut off when shared on social media channels. Again, it should include the focus keyword.
9. Include at least two inbound links
Include at least two links to other articles or pages on your website. This is great for SEO and for keeping readers on your site.
10. Include two outbound links
Including one or two outbound links is a good idea. Making them authoritative links means they’ll help your reader and strengthen your article. It’s natural to think that doing this means readers will leave your site. But it will help your SEO and, if your content’s up to scratch, those readers aren’t going anywhere.
11. Include bold and italicized sentences
Bolding or italicizing important phrases or sentences – ideally loaded with your focus keyword or a similar search term – is another signpost for Google. For example, putting your first paragraph focus keyword reference in bold is a great start, which you’ll see I have done.
12. Mix up your word counts
Long-form posts (posts of over about 1,200 words) are fashionable. Because, in spite of all the doom-mongering warnings that we are all turning into idiots with the attention span of ice cream cones, people still like to read lengthy pieces. Tablets and large screen smartphones have helped this rise in long-form content.
It’s a good idea to get a mix of short and long-form pieces onto your blog. Just make sure each post’s at least 300-400 words as a bare minimum. Otherwise, it won’t even register with Google in most cases.
13. Place your keyword strategically in headlines and subheadings
It’s this simple – the closer to the front of the headline and subheading that your focus keyword is, the better.
What is often challenging is doing this AND making your article title attractive to the reader. Striking the right balance is key. Instead of sticking rigidly to the focus keyword, aim to also cover similar search terms that people might use on Google – this will help your article to show up in results.
14. Add video, podcasts and photography to your content strategy
“Content” doesn’t just mean writing. All the other forms of media are excellent options to include on your blog. Google loves video, so if you can include things like interviews and quick commentaries along with a written post, you’ll be streets ahead of most of your competition. Podcasts also offer a different medium, and high-quality, original photos will help your content to stand out from the crowd.
15. Always post original content
Duplicating content from another site is just about the worst thing you can do. Search engines will clock it and will seriously punish your site by ensuring it doesn’t rank for anything.
Always make your content unique and original. Is it solving your ideal buyer’s problems?Are you bringing something to the table which no one else is? Are you solving problems better than anyone else and demonstrating this through benefits (and not features) in your content?
Follow these 15 blog SEO best practices and your site will be in great shape in no time.
After that, it’s up to you to promote it by link building, PR work and distribution.
What do you think? Is there anything else that you’d add? Have you had any specific problems with blog SEO?