How to SEO Blog Posts for Beginners
Blogs are freaking popular, there’s no doubt about that.
Whether you’re a YouTuber, a podcaster, a passionate person that loves to write, a product or service enthusiast, a travel blogger, into personal development, you’re leaving a TONNE of money on the table without a visible blog out there THAT GETS TRAFFIC.
If you’re a blogger that has ever asked yourself “how to increase traffic to my blog?” or “how do I SEO my website!?” then you’ve landed on the right article.
This is going to be long.
And maybe a little technical.
But, it’s what you need to build a solid foundation.
If you don’t know me, I am a professional SEO by trade, and a blogger by hobby.
You can call me the SEO Blogger.
Don’t actually call me that.
This article also assumes you know basic web-talk… you do run a blog after all!
We’ll avoid irrelevant SEO speak, but there will be some SEO terms used.
This is a how-to style guide designed to follow along to.
SEO can be complex, but that being said, it doesn’t need to be!
We’ll cover the low hanging fruit that, when combined with solid blog content, you’ll be blasting up the “Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)” in no time!
Next stop? Page one!!!!
That was hypey. It’s not that easy, but this is a great place to start!
And don’t forget: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
So, you’re sick of your blog posts getting blasted out into this thing called the internet and getting about as many viewers as the Leafs during the plays offs.
What’s a person to do!?
Optimize that baby up! You need to learn the ways of SEO blogging.
Search engine optimization is seen as a technical nightmare that is to be avoided at all costs, but when you’re dealing with a simple website (think: wordpress, blogger, squarespace, wix, etc) along with text-rich content (such as a blog!) your SEO related workload is actually QUITE manageable!
At the end of the day, wordpress, wix, square space and blogger SEO is all relatively the same. At least the basic steps are.
Ya, you heard right.
You’re going to be WELL on your way to ranking your blog after implementing the teachings in this article.
Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
We’re going to cover how to optimize your blog posts so you can actually get some traffic to your website.
I’ll give you step by step instructions, show you screen shots and my own workflows to spark your imagination.
Hell, I’ll even throw in the exact SEO checklist I use when creating a new blog post to help ensure your success on your journey.
We will never share your email or spam you. By submitting this form you are opting into our email list where we will send you SEO, blogging and other helpful information.
Let’s get to it!
I do this SEO thing for a living.
I’ve ranked national and local terms for everything from local businesses to multi national affiliate sites.
We’re going to talk about how to rank non-location specific terms.
Most bloggers fall under this category.
If your blogging SEO is for a business with a fixed location, and you’re trying to reach your audience in that same location through the search engines, these techniques still apply however there are also additional steps you need to take. Get in touch with me and I don't mind sharing this information with you.
Let's cover three crucial areas today
1) Article or post purpose & topic
2) Keyword selection, discovery & research
3) Onpage search engine optimization (What the heck is that!)
First things first, you NEED to know the topic of your blog post prior to writing it.
This sounds painfully obvious, and it is.
However, what I am getting at is the fact that you need to know the end goal so you can optimize for keywords as you go.
Hopefully that was less obvious.
Are we learning yet?
You can also optimize existing pages using these techniques, so no need to worry.
That being said, you’ll save time and get optimal results by learning these strategies and implementing from the conception of each blog post.
That way, you can actually strategically pre-select keywords.
When writing a blog post, you will need to ‘stay in your own lane,’ as they say. (Ok, really, who says that?)
Basically, don’t jump all over the place within your post.
By staying hyper focused on ONE topic in each post, you’re going to get stronger rankings in the search engines by showing that you’re incredibly relevant to the topic.
This helps the search engines to serve the best possible search results (you!) to people typing related terms into their search bars.
Let’s say you’ve nailed down your next blog post idea.
It’s going to be titled “How to Make a Cat Scratch Post at Home.”
There’s a BIG difference between this and a blog post titled “The Best Cat Scratch Posts of 2017.”
One is targeting someone looking to make a cat scratch post, and the other is targeting someone looking to buy a cat scratch post.
These are people that have very different goals and have unique needs when they punch something into Google.
You always want to serve content relevant to your visitor, or else they will land on your page, and then leave for the next search result.
Now, stay with me.
It may seem like we’re straying from the point, but we’re not.
By intimately understanding exactly who we are speaking to, we can then put ourselves in THEIR shoes when we are writing, and optimizing, our blog posts.
Let’s get your next blog post in front of the RIGHT person, not the WRONG one.
Someone with the cash in hand looking to buy a cat scratch post doesn’t care about your DIY tips.
But, the crafty DIY enthusiast definitely does!
Which eloquently brings us to our next section…
This is a chicken or the egg scenario. Which came first?
Do you choose the topic, or do you choose the keyword first?
Whatever feels right for you, do. There's no right or wrong answer.
If you’re blogging from a place of passion, choosing a topic first would be ideal.
There’s no shortage of keywords.. If you know what you’re doing.
There are many, many different ways to choose your keywords.
Let’s take another example into consideration to give an easy way to get keyword ideas.
Let’s pretend that I am getting ready to write my weekly article on my cat blog.
I bought Lucy (that’s my fictitious cat) a can of premium wet food last week.
Her stomach has been bothering her lately, so I decided I needed to switch things up and see what would work for her.
This did wonders for her upset stomach!
Not only that, but her coat as beautifully smooth and soft after adding this type of food to her diet.
I swear this relates.
Ok. We have decided what our topic is.
We can start looking for keywords within our basic idea, AFTER we make the connection of post topic and who you’re writing it for, as discussed in the previous discussion.
Always remember to make the connection of who your post is being written for, so that you can choose keywords they're actually going to use when searching in the search engines.
So our next step is to stop and consider the different things going on in our post's topic or direction.
I like to go broad topics to narrow, simply to wrap my head around all the possibilities.
The more specific the keyword, the easier to rank, in general (not always.)
Super specific topics are what you would call a "niched down" topic in the SEO world.
For example, pet food is a niche. Cat food is a smaller niche. Wet cat food is a smaller niche. Premium cat food is even smaller! Can we go smaller?
We literally could… and we will!
How about “How to Fix Cat's Upset Stomach”
Now, this isn’t our keyword exactly.
However, it’s our starting point for the “keyword discovery” portion of this process, in which we will derive the actual keywords!
After applying step 1, I’ve determined that this blog post would be helpful and of interest for someone with similar issues. A cat owner’s pet house cat having minor stomach issues and they want to fix it.
Next, I’d simply type this term into Google, and see what the results are.
When I do this, I am looking for two main things.
Who is ranking for this already?
What type of results does Google serve?
After typing it in, I can see the top spots are about home remedies.
This is perfect, because "how to" topics are much less competitive to rank for than "best product" style posts because the "best product" posts tend to be geared towards "buyer intent keywords," meaning people are actively trying to profit by ranking these terms.
Basically, you'll be up against a bunch of cat-loving SEOs. You don't want to compete with a SEO's website at first, until you first have a healthy website with lots of organic traffic from the search engines.
The next step is to do a little bit of light “competition analysis.”
The goal here is to simply see what the competition is trying to rank for, and what they are ranking for.
Being able to do effective competition analysis pre-post is absolutely critical to your success in the search engines. I'll admit, it takes skill and a bit of time to hone, but once you get it the world opens up to you. This post won't go into great detail, but it'll help you to get started. High level keyword & competition research for blogging would be a lesson on its own, and then some!
Now, let’s get a little technical. We'll use the same topic from the previous section, and I apologize profusely for the gross search results it'll bring up.
I'll be sure to pick a new topic for any future image optimization!!
I'm going to show you how to use your brain and two free tools to get your keyword research down.
With SEO, knowing different “search volumes” (generally implied as searches per month) is CRUCIAL.
The best part?
There’s an amazing tool called “Keyword’s Everywhere” that is not only easy to use and intuitive, it’s free!
Which is great, because I spent my last bit of money on premium cat food!
Here's the link: It's for Chrome and Firefox currently: https://keywordseverywhere.com/
Alright, download that plugin and activate it. You'll see you it appear on the top bar of your browser as a little K in a dark circle. Follow their instructions to download it, it's not hard but not intuitive.
This plugin works passively as well as actively. We're only going to use the passive function for now - in a future post I will be going over how I use this plug in in conjunction with other tools and techniques to produce thousands of keywords for any niche to help generate ideas to write about that you'll be able to rank for.
To double check that this plugin is working, just hop over to google and type in anything into the search bar.
You'll notice now it gives you some information directly under the search bar - how handy!
That's super helpful and all, but we want more than that.
Type in your keyword, and then scroll to the very bottom where you see Google's suggested keywords.
Now THIS is helpful!
This is what you should see:
Basically, you can use this function to identify possible keywords with volume.
Rinse and repeat, keep searching different variations of your keyword, or just plug the suggestions at the bottom of google (one at a time) into google. Keep checking what new suggestions come up at the bottom.
Keep all these keyword ideas that have any volume in a notepad, spread sheet or whatever works for you.
Next, let's jump over to Google Keyword Planner.
This isn't a great source for keywords to use, because EVERYBODY uses it. We don't want to go for what everybody goes for!
That being said, it can be helpful when you're very niche specific, or if you're not targeting profitable keywords.
Alright, head over to https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner and log in with your gmail account. You'll need one if you don't have one already (seriously, who doesn't have a Gmail account in 2017?)
This dashboard can be confusing.
Luckily, we’re not going to use much of it – just a very specific area.
After logging in, you'll see "Tools" in the top menu.
Click it and a menu will appear.
Go down towards the bottom of the new menu to “Keyword Planner” and left click it.
Okay, now you'll be on a new page. Click "Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or company."
Once you click that, you'll see a new menu.
Alright, type your idea into the Google Keyword Planner, as shown.
I’ll use “How to Fix Cat's Upset Stomach”
After typing this in, click the "keyword filters" area and tick the "medium" and "low" boxes and click save in the menu that pops up.
Now you're good to search - click "Get Ideas" and we're off to the races.
Now, you'll be seeing some keywords. We just need to do ONE more thing before we have the creme of the crop.
Click the "Average monthly searches" header tab to sort by volume. Keep clicking it until the highest volume keywords show at the very top. They'll now be in order from highest to lowest.
Now we have some contenders!
This is the part where you need to use your brain. Some keywords will make sense for you to use, some won't and some will be down right useless.
Always remember you intent - WHO are you trying to help, and WHAT are they looking for.
Repeat the first section of the keyword research by plugging these new suggested keywords into Google, and using Keywords Everywhere to analyze the "suggested keywords" at the bottom of each Google page. You'll be amazed at the results!
Alright, we’ve NAILED the keywords portion of our blog post.
On Page SEO for Bloggers
Onpage SEO is the art of making your website stand out for certain terms, in one way or another, in the eyes of the ever-judgmental search engines.
The most important aspects of a page's SEO, in my humble opinion, are:
2. Page title
3. Header tags
Your domain name itself also has an impact on SEO. That being said, you can get more granular control over your optimization processes by sticking to a "branded domain name," versus a "keyword rich domain."
And then of course you have your page's actual content. We'll discuss this too.
By always following a pattern with these aspects of your websites, you can avoid “over optimization penalties.”
If Google thinks you’re slamming keywords into your page just to rank for a keyword, they can penalize you.
It’s not hard, luckily.
That being said, let’s get our hands dirty and talk about what the heck all that even means.
Before we start, don’t get over whelmed by these terms if it’s all new information. It’s something you learn once, and you have it forever.
You won’t need to even think about it after the first couple of blog post optimizations.
And just know that I am here for your success. If you’re on my email list, shoot me an email if you’re not sure what type of domain yours is.
Your domain is something you generally have picked out and setup before you even know what SEO is or how important it is.
There are three types of domain names.
They’re Exact Match, Partial Match and Branded domains.
I prefer branded domains, over the other two, but you can be successful with all three types.
You just need to know how to work with your specific domain.
Let’s talk examples.
An exact match would be a domain trying to rank in Google for “amazing cat lifestyle” with a domain name of amazingcatlifestyle.com. The main keyword exactly matches the domain name, minus the end “.com” portion.
A partial match domain would be catlifestyle.com (this is taken, I checked) while still trying to rank for “amazing cat lifestyle” keyword. This is because, quite literally, the domain partially matches the words in the domain name.
Finally, a branded URL is just your business, brand or personal name. Andy Tells All is an example. Andytellsall.com is a branded domain…. it’s an irrelevant search term other than being my brand name.
We’ll get into URLs next, but get into a habit your domain name in mind when optimizing your site content.
The reason I like branded domains is because they simplify things. You can more freely use words in your content with less chance of accidental over optimization.
If your domain name has keyword(s) in it, you need to be constantly wary of when you’re dropping it on your site, and how often you do on each page.
This creates unnecessary work because if you have cat in your domain name, and you’re always trying to rank pages for cat specific keywords, you need to be constantly diligent.
Branded domains for the win… less shit to keep track of, making for easier wins!
Plus you can start templating your keyword strategy, that way you can optimize on the fly VERY quickly, once you learn the basics.
The slug is an important aspect of optimizing individual pages.
It’s an easy way to shake Google and scream at them “THIS IS WHAT MY PAGE IS ABOUT!!!” without being spammy about it.
Gently, of course.
For some clarity, let’s look at what a URL is, what a domain is and what a slug is.
This is a URL: moneycatblog.com/how-to-care-for-newborn-kittens
This is the domain: moneycatblog.com
This is the slug /how-to-care-for-newborn-kittens
A URL can be either just the domain (example: fastcatsonwheels.com) or both the domain and a slug (fastcatsonwheels.com/these-examples-are-getting-strange.)
Also, it’s important to note that “long-tail keywords” should be used for URLs, not super broad keywords.
Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, how do we apply to your blog’s search engine optimization strategy??
Honestly, it’s simple: A great entry level strategy is to just put your main keyword word for word as your URL, as long as it makes sense.
You can experiment with this later, but this is an easy way to start without butchering your efforts right out the gate.
Individual page titles are another really good way to optimize your pages for the main keyword.
This is on the same level as shaking Google and screaming your page topic at ...it?
My page title and slug will usually be the same, unless I switch it up for a very specific reason.
You do not need to worry about switching it up when starting out. Keep it simple, and don’t over think this stuff.
Starting out, it can be a fairly easily to make your page relevant for your main terms by utilizing this method of mirroring your page title and URL.
That being said, when I do make the page title and the URL the main keyword, that means that I’ll be VERY selective in dropping that same exact keyword again.
H tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) are weighted in a hierarchical manner, with H1 having the heaviest ranking factor and going down from there.
It’s important to only include ONE H1 tag per page.
It’s normal to use one, so don’t try to get shifty and use more than one just because it can have SEO benefit.
Because it won’t, and you’ll get penalized.
Always, always, always play it on the safe side.
Personally, if I EVER think to myself “Am I over optimizing right now?” it means that yes, I am, and I also need to go back and “de-optimize” (remove keywords) from the article.
The content is the main driving point of your article or blog post.
When it comes to content, the main question I get is: How many times should I drop my keyword?
I ALWAYS respond: it depends.
So helpful!!!! I know. Right?!
I say this because… it depends.
Look, I’ll be blunt.
Google can tell you this… you don’t need to ask me.
Head on over to Google, type in your search term.
Open your competitors’ pages; the ones that are on page one for YOUR term. (Those bastards!)
Hit control F or Apple F (Or whatever it is for a Mac…. The “find” function. I’m a Windows guy.)
“Find all” the instances of your keyword by typing your keyword into the little search bar that pops up after you open the “find” function.
Then count the words in the entire article (Don't literally count them... copy/paste the article into a word processor...)
Let's pretend you just analyised your competitor to find that they dropped their main keyword in their article 7 times. After doing your due diligence, you discovered the article was 1700 words long.
7 divided by 1700 multiplied by 100 brings us to our keyword density. So, the keyword density would be 0.4 in this fictitious example.
In other words, # of keywords divided by number of words in article = keyword density.
There's a free tool you can check out that's a big time saver, but I recommend never relying on 3rd party services for anything. Check it out here: http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-density/
By understanding the different keyword percentages that Google has ranked onto page one of their search engine, we can begin to formulate an idea as to how many times we will include it in our post. Did I mention how important it is to prepare a post BEFORE writing it?!
Usually, you’ll find similar percentages for page one results, but not always.
You can use this as a loose guideline as to what you could aim for, realistically. I disqualify any sites that are massively above or below any patterns I see.
That being said, like we talked about, you’ll also need to factor in their domain name, URL, and H1 tags.
We’ll talk about “competition analysis” in a future blog post, because that’s when SEO starts to get really exciting (and a lot easier!) but you need to learn how to walk before you run.
This is a bit more advanced than you really need to go if you’re just starting out, if I am honest. However, it is a best practice used in the SEO realm so I wanted to share it.
If you naturally write your content, as well as keeping these other optimization opportunities into consideration, I bet you'll do just fine.
Your content should also be gripping to your end user. If people are coming to your site and leaving due to its poor quality, you'll lose any chance of ranking in the search engines.
Images (Alt tags, titles)
The images on your page can also be used to guide the search engines to what your page is all about and should be ranking for.
The two low hanging tweaks you can optimize here are the “alt tags” and the image file names.
I generally leave the descriptions blank within the media gallery.
Alt tags were designed as an alternate to text option.
If someone is using a text to audio program on a site, it’ll actually read these alt text phrases back to the user, so they know there is a picture there, and they know what it is supposed to represent.
I emphasize theoretically because misusing alt tags runs rampant in the SEO industry.
Do NOT “keyword stuff” in the alt tags.
You’re setting yourself up for failure in the future if you do this.
Describe the picture in a logical sense while using words that relate to your topic. Do this very naturally.
Alright, next up: image file names.
Strategically name your files ahead of time, before you upload them to your website’s gallery.
When I name my files I actually try to avoid the keyword if I included the keyword in some shape or form in the alt tag.
Again, better safe than sorry.
Instead, I use (Warning, fancy SEO word coming up) “latent symantic indexing” terms (LSIs) which is similar to a synonym… but a little bit different.
So, if your picture is a cat playing with yarn, but you wanted to avoid using the word cat, you could use words like pet, feline, mouser, etc. in it’s place. Google knows this stuff is all related.
Note that the word doesn’t need to be a perfect synonym. A nail is an LSI term for a roof, if the roof is in context with roof construction.
Pro tip: I heard that Google makes more connections than Tinder in NYC on a Friday night.
It may seem a little overwhelming now, but it actually isn’t once you get used to it. ---optin to grab the checklist that'll help keep this stuff straight as you drum up your next blog post.
It’ll act as your road rap on your newly embarked quest to become a brutal force to be reckoned with in the search engines.
An “outbound or external link” is a hyperlink on your website that points to a different domain.
The method behind this madness is to link to relevant websites in your niche.
If a site is linking to a high quality, trusted domain, it’s easier to draw the conclusion that the linking site is trustworthy, as well. From Google’s judgemental perspective, not mine.
But, do not link to something so similar that a person will leave your site to check that content out.
We humans have the attention span of gnats these days.
Also, always configure your hyperlinks to open as new windows in a situation like this.
The logic here is if someone does click the link, it’ll open, but when they close it your website will be there as a reminder that they’ve still got content to consume.
An internal link is a hyperlink that points to a different page on your own website.
A hyperlink on catsinthestreets.com homepage pointing to catsinthestreet.com/blog is an example of an internal link that would help direct people to the blog page.
These are good for navigation.
They’re also good for SEO.
It helps spread the ‘power’ around your website.
This is a concept we haven’t touched yet, due to it being more advanced.
It's called link juice. We won’t go into detail… just know that you need to link your pages in a way logical way - make sure the person on the page would actually be interested in it. .
I hope you’re seeing a pattern here: make your content for humans, not robots.
Alright, that’s enough basic SEO for one day…
Remember, you can ALWAYS optimize your site more. This guide is FAR from definitive, and the methods here can be tweaked for better results (or worse… shudder!) once you know what you’re doing.
However, unless you really know what you’re doing, or have someone holding your hand through the process, it’s a craps shoot when you start screwing with higher level SEO techniques.
This is meant to get you started on the right foot, and teach you best practices to build a solid foundation in which you will build your kingdom.
Stick to these basics for now, get your site optimized, and connect with more readers!
Before I leave you, I need to let you know…
SEO isn’t just about on-page tweaks.
There’s more to it than that.
We also need to cover off-page SEO.
Offpage SEO is all the shit that happens OFF your website, that promotes its rankability (that’s a word, I swear!)
Offpage search engine optimization for bloggers is more technical than onpage. Frankly, it’s easier to fuck up, too.
That being said, I’m going to simplify it, and deal you the dirt that will yield good results with little room to fuck up.
You can go to the MOON in SEO if you master offpage SEO, but we’re not there…. And we don’t need to be!
You’re in luck though, because in my next blog post we’re going to be covering the entry level off page SEO.
See you next time, and don’t forget to drop a comment with any feedback. I absolutely cherish readers feedback and take it to heart when creating new content. After all, this is about you… not me.