Even if you’re blogging just for fun, SEO can help you boost your message and connect with more engaged readers.

But what is blog SEO? And how can you optimize your blog for search engines? Get ready for an in-depth exploration into the world of keywords, backlinks, and content optimization.

Start reading, or click a topic below to jump to the section you’re looking for:

Blog SEO is the practice of creating and updating a blog to improve search engine rankings. This approach usually includes keyword research, link building, image optimization, and content writing.

When you optimize your web pages — including your blog posts — you’re making your website more visible to people who are using search engines (like Google) to find your product or service. But does your blog content really help your business organically rank on search engines?

Blogging helps you create relevant content for more keywords than other kinds of pages do, which can improve your organic clicks.

For example, a person who clicks on a landing page usually has transactional intent. This means that person is clicking because they’re ready to convert.

But people search online for many different reasons. And a blog has the potential to answer navigational, informational, and transactional search queries. Creating content for more types of search can increase clicks to your pages, which can improve your SEO.

When other websites link to pages on your website it shows search engines that your content is useful and authoritative. Backlinks are a sort of peer review system online. If your blog gets backlinks from respected sites, it’s more likely that your website will rank in search results.

Because blog posts are likely to educate or inform users, they tend to attract more quality backlinks.

When you link from one page on your site to another, you’re creating a clear path for users to follow. Internal links can also make it easier for people to find the content on your site they’re looking for. These links also help search engine crawlers figure out the organization of your site.

A blog creates more site pages that you can link to internally. It also gives you a chance to direct site traffic to other pages that can help your users.

For example, say you run a lawn maintenance company and offer lawn mowing services. Someone searching for a lawn mower wouldn’t find your services online because that’s not what they’re looking for (yet).

But say you write blogs about the best lawnmowers, lawn mowing challenges, or pest control for lawns. Those posts make your website easier to find. And if someone looking for lawn mowers decides they want an easier option, they could be a good candidate for your services. You can help them visit other pages on your site through internal links.

Blog SEO strategy is a comprehensive plan to improve organic search results. This plan might include competitive research, keyword lists, or an optimization proposal.

Search engines make frequent updates. Business goals can change quickly too. But it can take an average of three to six months for a post to rank on Google. Without a strategy, you might find yourself investing in your blog but not seeing a boost in SEO.

No matter what industry your blog targets, you’ll want to find and speak to the primary audience that will be reading your content. Understanding who your audience is and what you want them to do when they click on your article will help guide your blog strategy.

Search engines like Google value visuals for certain keywords. Images and videos are among the most common visual elements that appear on the search engine results page.

In order to achieve a coveted spot in an image pack or a video snippet, you’ll want to design creative graphics, use original photos and videos, and add descriptive alt text to every visual element within your blog post.

Alt text is a major factor that determines whether or not your image or video appears in the SERP and how highly it appears. Alt text is also important for screen readers so that visually impaired individuals have a positive experience consuming content on your blog site.

The title of your blog post is the first element a reader will see when they come across your article, and it heavily influences whether they’ll click or keep scrolling. A catchy title uses data, asks a question, or leads with curiosity to pique the reader’s interest.

Here’s an example of a catchy title with a Coschedule Headline Analyzer Score of 87:

The Perfect Dress Has 3 Elements According to This Popular Fashion Expert

CTAs come in all types of formats, so get creative and experiment with them. Buttons, hyperlinks, and widgets are some of the most common CTAs, and they all have different purposes. For instance, you should add a bold, visible CTA like a button if you want the reader to make a purchase. On the other hand, you can easily get a reader to check out another blog post by providing a hyperlink to it at the conclusion of the current article.

Any great writer or SEO will tell you that the reader experience is the most important part of a blog post. The reader experience includes several factors like readability, formatting, and page speed. That means you’ll want to write content that’s clear, comprehensive of your topic, and accurate according to the latest data and trends.

Organizing the content using headings and subheadings is important as well because it helps the reader scan the content quickly to find the information they need. Finally, on-page elements like images and videos have an impact on page speed. Keep image file sizes low (250 KB is a good starting point) and limit the number of videos you embed on a single page.

By focusing on what the reader wants to know and organizing the post to achieve that goal, you’ll be on your way to publishing an article optimized for the search engine.

Dwell time is the length of time a reader spends on a page on your blog site. From the moment a visitor clicks on your site in the SERP, to the moment they exit the page is considered dwell time.

This metric indirectly tells search engines like Google how valuable your content is to the reader. It makes sense that the longer they spend on the page, the more relevant it is to them.

However, there’s a reason this metric is an indirect indicator for SEO — it’s completely subjective. The search engine algorithms don’t know your content strategy.

Your blog could be focused on short-form content that takes just a minute or two to read. You might also include pertinent information at the beginning of your blog posts to give the best reader experience, which means less time spent on the page.

We mentioned earlier that visual elements on your blog can affect page speed, but that isn’t the only thing that can move this needle. Unnecessary code and overuse of plugins can also contribute to a sluggish blog site.

I also recommend taking an inventory of your blog site plugins. Decide which ones you need to keep your blog running day-to-day and which ones were installed as a fix for a temporary issue. Plugins that affect the front end of your site are a threat to page speed, and odds are, you can uninstall more of these plugins than you think to increase your overall site speed.

Search engines aim to provide the most relevant and accurate information available. A factor search engines use when determining what’s relevant and accurate is the date a search engine indexes the content.

You might be wondering: Is the date the content was indexed the same as the date it was published?

The answer: yes and no. If a blog post is published for the first time, it’s likely that a Google crawler will index that post the same day you publish it. But content can be backdated for several legitimate reasons, too, like archiving information or updating a sentence or two.

By updating these older posts with new perspectives and data, you’ll be able to significantly impact your blog SEO without creating a lot of net new content. Site crawlers will reindex the page — taking into account the updated content — and give it another opportunity to compete in the SERP. It’s truly a win-win.

Recent data, another indirect ranking factor of SEO, should be included in blog posts. Recent data gives visitors relevant and accurate information which makes for a positive reader experience.

When you include a link to a credible site that has original, up-to-date data, you’re telling the search engine that this site is helpful and relevant to your readers (which is a plus for that other site). You’re also telling the search engine that this type of data is in some way related to the content you publish. Over time, your readers will come to appreciate the content which can be confirmed using other metrics like increased time on page or lower bounce rate.

Keyword research can also help you find new topics to write about and grab the interest of new audiences.

Writing titles is tough. Many blog writers spend time writing a blog post then quickly add a title when they’re done and hope for the best. But blog titles have a bigger impact than you might think.

First, titles tell your audience what to expect from your post. If your blog title is a smart and catchy question that your post doesn’t answer, you’ll have a lot of unhappy readers.

Next, your blog title is what makes searchers want to read your post. It doesn’t matter how well-written and researched a blog post is if the title doesn’t spark interest.

Finally, titles are essential for blog SEO. This is a place to feature your keywords in an authentic way. Google calls this the “title tag” in a search result.

Be sure to include your keyword within the first 60 characters of your title, which is just about where Google cuts titles off on the SERP. Technically, Google measures by pixel width, not character count. It recently increased the pixel width for organic search results from approximately 500 pixels to 600 pixels, which translates to around 60 characters.

Long title tag? When you have a lengthy headline, it’s a good idea to get your keyword in the beginning since it might get cut off in SERPs toward the end, which can take a toll on your post’s perceived relevance.

In the example below, we had a long title that went over 65 characters, so we placed the keyword near the front.

It’s also important to look at the SERP results for your keyword when you’re writing your post titles. This research will help you understand the most popular results for your keywords. It will also give you a better sense of what searchers are hoping to find when they click on your post.

An outline can help you organize your ideas around your target keywords. It can also give you a space to figure out the best spot to include the features that make a blog post great like:

The outline is an important creative step where you decide the angle and goal of your blog post. You already have a great post title, so your next step is to outline how your post will cover the topic. You can create a detailed outline or a quick overview, whichever is best for you.

That said, an outline is a great space to write each of your headers. Writing these during your outline can make the process of drafting your blog go more smoothly.

Now it’s time to incorporate your keywords into your blog post. But where is the best place to include these terms so you rank high in search results?

There are two more essential places where you should try to include your keywords: headers & body and URL.

Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers. That means including your keywords in your copy, but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don’t go overboard at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing.

Before you start writing a new blog post, you’ll think about how to incorporate your keywords into your headers and post. That’s a smart idea, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, nor even your primary focus.

Focus on being helpful and answering whatever question your customer might’ve asked to arrive on your post. Do that, and you’ll naturally optimize for important keywords, anyway.

Search engines also look at your URL to figure out what your post is about, and it’s one of the first things it’ll crawl on a page.

In the example below, we created the URL using the keyword “positioning-statement” because we want to rank for it.

As you write, keep in mind that your copy matters a great deal for click-through rates. This is because it should satisfy your readers’ intent — the more engaging, the better.

Blog SEO is more than including focus and supporting keywords in your post. You’ll want to make each post as comprehensive as possible to make sure it answers your readers’ questions.

It’s easier for longer content to rank, but not every post needs to be 2000+ words. What’s most important is meeting your users’ needs and expectations with your post.

A few ways to create the best blogs for your audience include:

Blog posts shouldn’t only contain text — they should also include images and other media that help explain and support your content.

Images make your blog posts more exciting and easy to understand. They help your readers engage, improve recall of important facts, and make your site more accessible. Videos and GIFs are other interesting and useful additions to your blog posts. They make your content more visual, interactive, and memorable.

To use images and other media with SEO in mind, there are a few important things to remember.

File size matters. Too-large images and GIFs can slow down your page speed, which can impact ranking. It’s also important that your image dimensions are consistent for a professional look.

Choose the right kind of content for your brand voice. Funny GIFs are a great choice for some blogs, but if they don’t feel right to your audience they can have a negative impact.

Search engines don’t simply look for images. Rather, they look for images with image alt text.

You may be wondering why this is. Since search engines can’t “see” images the same way humans can, an image’s alt text tells the search engine what an image is about. This ultimately helps those images rank on the search engine’s images results page.

Here’s what a complete image tag might look like:

When you incorporate image alt text, an image’s name in your blog may go from something like, “IMG23940” to something accurate and descriptive such as “puppies playing in a basket.”

Image alt text should be descriptive in a helpful way — meaning, it should provide the search engine with context to index the image if it’s in a blog article related to a similar topic.

To provide more context, here’s a list of things to be sure you keep in mind when creating alt text for your blog’s images:

You may have heard that backlinks influence how high your blog site can rank in the SERP, and that’s true — backlinks show how trustworthy your site is based on how many other relevant sites link back to yours. But backlinks aren’t the end-all-be-all to link building. Linking to and from your own blog posts can have a positive impact on how well your blog site ranks, too.

(You might’ve noticed that I’ve been doing that from time to time throughout this blog post when I think it’s helpful for our readers.) Not only will internal linking help keep visitors on your website, but it also surfaces your other relevant and authoritative pages to search engines.

For example, if your blog is about fashion, you might cover fabrics as a topic. Adding a hyperlink from a blog post about cotton to a post about the proper way to mix fabrics can help both of those posts become more visible to readers who search these keywords.

The search engines will also have one more entry point to the post about cotton when you hyperlink it in the post about mixing fabrics. This means the post about cotton fabric, and any updates you make to it will be recognized by site crawlers faster. It could even see a boost in the SERP as a result.

You can think of this as solving for your SEO while also helping your visitors get more information from your content.

So, in addition to being reader-friendly (compelling and relevant), your meta description should include the long-tail keyword for which you are trying to rank.

In the following example, I searched for “email newsletter examples.”

The term is bolded in the meta description, helping readers make the connection between the intent of their search term and this result.

In this example I searched for the term “HTML space.”

You see the terms “space” and “HTML” bolded, indicating that Google knows there’s a semantic connection between “HTML space” and the words “space” and “HTML” in the meta description.

Note: Nowadays, it’s not guaranteed that your meta description is always pulled into SERPs as it once was. As you can see in the above image, Google pulls in other parts of your blog post that includes the keywords searched, presumably to give searchers optimal context around how the result matches their specific query.

Let me show you another example. Below are two different search queries delivering two different snippets of text on Google SERPs. The first is a result of the query “no index no follow,” and it pulls in an explanation of the term “noindex.”:

The second is a result of the query “noindex nofollow,” and pulls in the first instance of these specific keywords coming up in the body of the blog post:

While there’s not much you can do to influence what text gets pulled in, you should continue to optimize this metadata, as well as your post, so search engines display the best content from the article. By creating reader-friendly content with natural keyword inclusion, you’ll make it easier for Google to prove your post’s relevancy in SERPs for you.

Remember, many content marketers struggle with optimizing their blog posts for search. The truth is, your blog posts won’t start ranking immediately. It takes time to build up search authority.

Now, let’s take a look at these blog SEO tips that you can take advantage of to enhance your content’s searchability.

It also doesn’t make for a good reader experience — a ranking factor that search engines now prioritize to ensure you’re answering the intent of your visitors. Therefore, you should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.

You may be wondering: Why long-tail keywords?

These longer, often question-based keywords keep your post focused on the specific goals of your audience. For example, the long-tail keyword “how to write a blog post” is much more impactful in terms of SEO than the short keyword “blog post”.

Website visitors searching long-tail keywords are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you. In other words, they’ll help you generate the right type of traffic — visitors who convert.

Most businesses have buyer personas, but you can make your blog even more searchable and relevant with SEO personas.

This strategy isn’t just for boosting SEO visibility. It can help you focus your time and resources on the traffic that can boost your business. This is a data-driven strategy that can help you understand the keyword themes and search habits of your target audience.

Once you understand these details, it will be easier to choose which topics to prioritize in your blog SEO strategy. As you create your SEO personas, you’ll want to answer questions like:

These details can help you understand how your users search and what types of content they’ll respond to online. This can help you boost traffic, leads, and conversions while also optimizing for SEO.

As a result, you’ll centralize the SEO power you gain from these links, helping Google more easily recognize your post’s value and rank it accordingly.

The right CMS can help you improve blog SEO. Whether you’re building a new blog post or updating site pages, the more built-in features you have the easier it will be to optimize for SEO.

SEO is complex, so the features you’ll need will depend on your level of expertise and how often you post to your blog.

Readable content is easy to consume and quick to skim. It’s also a delight to read — offering clear answers and a logical path from question to answer. Readability improves the chances that your readers will engage with your content. It helps you make sure that they’ll look to your blog as an authority in your industry.

You can also make your blogs easier to consume by adding useful images and videos or choosing colors and fonts that are easy on the eyes.

If you use too many similar tags for the same content, it appears to search engines as if you’re showing the content multiple times throughout your website. For example, topic tags like “blogging,” “blog,” and “blog posts” are too similar to one another to be used on the same post.

If you’re worried that your current blog posts have too many similar tags, take some time to clean them up. Choose about 15–25 topic tags that you think are important to your blog and that aren’t too similar to one another. Then only tag your posts with those keywords. That way, you won’t have to worry about duplicate content.

If we want to read the Sales section, all we have to do is change where it says “marketing” in the URL to “sales”:

This URL structure helps me understand that “/marketing” and “/sales” are smaller sections — called subdirectories — within the larger blog.

What if there’s a specific article we want to read, such as “How to Do Keyword Research: A Beginner’s Guide”?

In this way, URL structure acts as a categorization system for readers, letting them know where they are on the website and how to access new site pages. Search engines appreciate this, as it makes it easier for them to identify exactly what information searchers will access on different parts of your blog or website.

Pro tip: Don’t change your blog post URL after it’s been published — that’s the easiest way to press the metaphorical “reset” button on your SEO efforts for that post. If your URL is less descriptive than you’d like or it no longer follows your brand or style guidelines, your best bet is to leave it as is. Instead, change the title of the post using the guidelines we covered earlier.

The way most blogs are currently structured (including our own blogs, until very recently), bloggers and SEOs have worked to create individual blog posts that rank for specific keywords.

This makes things unorganized and difficult for blog visitors to find the exact information they need. It also results in your URLs competing against one another in search engine rankings when you produce multiple blog posts about similar topics.

For this model to work, choose the broad topics for which you want to rank. Then, create content based on specific keywords related to that topic that all link to each other to establish broader search engine authority.

This is what our blog infrastructure looks like now, with the topic cluster model. Specific topics are surrounded by blog posts related to the greater topic, connected to other URLs in the cluster with hyperlinks:

This model uses a more deliberate site architecture to organize and link URLs together to help more pages on your site rank in Google — and to help searchers find information on your site more easily. This architecture consists of three components — pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks:

There are more than just organic page results on Google. Instead, each search engine results page (SERP) includes a range of different features to help users find what they’re looking for. For example, the People also ask feature highlights questions that relate to the users’ initial search request, like in the example below:

There are many different types of SERP features. Other popular SERP features include:

There are a few ways that you can improve your chances of getting SERP features to improve SEO for your blog.

First, write clear, well-structured, and useful content that responds to keywords in your niche. Be sure to answer specific questions within each post that relate to your blog topic.

Next, take a look at competitor examples for tips and ideas. It’s also a good idea to optimize your images and videos with alt text to improve their chances of appearing for relevant searches.

To improve your SEO, you may assume you need to create new blog content. Although that’s partially true, you should also focus a great deal of your time and energy on your existing blog content. Specifically, repurposing and updating your current content, as well as removing your outdated content.

This is because it takes a lot longer for a completely new piece of content to settle on the search engine results page (SERP) and gain authority, whereas you could update a piece of content and reap the benefits fairly immediately in comparison.

Not only will your updated content rank on the SERP faster, improving your number of visitors and leads, it also takes a lot less time and fewer resources to update an existing piece of content rather than create a brand new article.

Additionally, updating and repurposing some of your most successful pieces of content extends its lifespan so you can achieve the best results over a longer period of time (especially if it’s evergreen content).

The final step entails removing outdated content that’s no longer relevant to your audience. Although your goal is to ensure your content is evergreen, some of it is bound to become outdated over time. This includes statistics, product information (if you have any listed in your blogs — as your products and business evolve), or information that changes across your industry over time.

If you want even more SEO tips, check out these resources:

We don’t expect you to incorporate each of these SEO best practices into your content strategy right away. But, as your website grows, so should your goals on search engines. Once you figure out the goals and intent of your ideal readers, you’ll be on track to deliver relevant content that will climb the ranks of the SERP.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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