Editor's Note: Sreeram Sreenivasan is the founder of Ubig Bi, and works with Fortune 500 companies. He also runs the Fedingo blog where his content expertise comes in handy. Today he joins us to discuss 10 steps to use in optimizing your blog posts for SEO.
Google is often the largest source of traffic for blog and website content. If your blog posts are not optimized for search, then you’re missing out on high quality visitors that might convert to paying customers. However, if you wrongly optimize or over-optimize your posts, then your site can get penalized and even lose existing traffic.
Optimizing posts according to the best practices for content SEO is essential to maintaining search engine rankings and bringing in more visitors. To that end, here is a list of 10 things to keep in mind before you write your blog post. This can be used as a checklist to ensure that your articles are comprehensive, useful and effective at building traffic.
1. Killer Topic
A great blog post begins with picking a topic that is relevant and useful to your readers. Every aspect of the post's format (title, subheadings, takeaways) is governed by the topic you choose to write about.
If people care about the subject of your post, they’ll share it on social media platforms and spend more time on your site. This will send positive social signals telling search engines that your content is valuable, and rank your posts higher.
Once you’ve chosen a topic, it’s essential to come up with a great headline. In fact, 60% of readers don’t read further than that. A great headline not only captures the reader’s attention but also compels them to click and read more.
Here’s how you can write a killer headline:
- Start with a working title and brainstorm how to make the angle interesting. For example, if you want to write about ‘shoes’, you need to come up with a more specific working title to begin with. This choice comes down to the kind of article you want to write - a listicle, an explainer post, or a how-to guide, etc. Think of a few titles to aid your research. Here are examples:
- 10 Designer Shoes to Try in 2018
- A Newbie's Guide to Shoe Styles
- What Shoes to Wear for Prom
- Do Keyword Research - Keyword research allows you to create a title that will rank well on search engines. Your headline is one of the many ranking factors used by Google, and using appropriate keywords will rank your post for the right search terms so users can find the information they need.
The objective is to come up with a list of keywords that are highly relevant to your target audience and drive traffic. You can use free tools like Google Keyword Planner to get keyword ideas for your topic. Just type in your topic in Keyword Planner and Google will give you a list of keyword ideas, along with their monthly search volume and competition (low, medium, high).
Pick one high-traffic keyword that’s relevant to your topic as the main target keyword that you’ll include in your headline, and 4-5 related long-tail keywords that you can include throughout the rest of your blog post.
In our example, we can pick ‘spring shoes’ as the main keyword: it has a good traffic and low competition. You’ll notice that none of our working titles (designer shoes, shoe styles, prom shoes) appear in the keyword ideas suggested by Google, although they seem popular. That’s where keyword research helps to keep us from targeting the wrong search terms.
Based on this knowledge, we can tweak our first working title to "10 Designer Spring Shoes to Try in 2018"
- Optimize your title - The last step is to craft your title to drive maximum clicks & shares. According to a study by HubSpot, these practices are key:
2. Persuasive Meta Description
A meta description is a short summary of web content that helps readers to preview what your post is about. It plays a pivotal role in driving traffic to your post in the following ways:
- It helps search engines understand what your post is about so it can be indexed and ranked for the right keywords and search terms
- It appears in search results as a short description, below the title. By writing a persuasive meta description, you can compel the readers to click on your article, instead of the ones ranked above yours.
- It also appears as a short description in your social media post when you share it on Facebook, or LinkedIn. Again, an interesting meta description can compel readers to click on your post.
You can use a free WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO to easily add a meta description to your posts without worrying about the technical aspects of it. Yoast has in-built features to wrap your meta description in the right HTML tags that are then picked up by social networks and search engines while displaying your content. It even provides a preview of what your article will look like in search results.
Ensure that your meta description doesn’t exceed 160 characters in length, to avoid being truncated. In fact, Yoast plugin also provides useful validations to ensure that your title & meta descriptions are well within the recommended limits.
Here are some tips to write a compelling meta description:
- Ensure that it matches the content
- Include the main target keyword once in the beginning of your description
- Keep it actionable, in an active voice
- Include a call-to-action
3. Attractive Featured Image
Featured images are usually displayed at the top of your blog posts: they play a big part in retaining and building the interest of readers.
It’s also the image displayed in social media posts when you or readers share your article on networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Your image should reflect what the post is about; it should also be interesting and pique readers' interest. It can even feature the title of your post:
There are plenty of free stock photo sites that you can use in your optimized blog post, such as the following:
4. An Introduction with a Hook
Your introduction needs to quickly captivate your readers and give them a reason to continue reading your post. It should also tell them what your post is about so they know what's coming. Here are some ways to write an interesting introduction:
- Start with a surprising fact to kick things off
- Ask a question that you answer later in the post
- Tell a funny or shocking story that’s relevant to your content and draws the reader in
- Use the cliffhanger approach. Make the reader imagine a problem they are facing so they want to read more about the solution you offer.
5. Relevant Sub-headers
Sub-headers break your article into easily readable sections and improve the overall user experience, increasing the likelihood that your optimized post will be shared. They also make it easy for Google to understand the various sub topics covered in your post, and help your content rank for more search terms and keywords.
Generally, titles are displayed in H1 heading, so each subtopic in your post should have a separate sub-header in the H2 tag. If you need to use H3 sub headers, ensure that they are only used after H2. Make sure to include the long-tail keywords you have researched (in point #1) in your sub-headers, preferably at the beginning.
6. Sufficient Body
This is where your readers will get the most value from your post. According to SerpIQ, the majority of top 10 Google results have 2,000-2,400 words. Additionally, Medium found that such long-form posts gained the most engagement and attention.
However, it’s equally important that your post is easy to read. Otherwise, it will bore your readers and they will quickly bounce. So break your body into small paragraphs with 2-3 sentences each, interspersed with images and videos.
7. Supporting Data
Whenever possible, use numbers and statistics to back your points. Numbers denote facts and are therefore trusted by readers. This also shows that you’ve written a well-researched article, giving readers more confidence to share your optimized blog post with their network.
In fact, numbers written as numerals have been shown to grab attention when readers skim through the content. Including data also gives you an opportunity to naturally include images of supporting graphs in your post, making it reader-friendly.
Whenever you quote a number, make sure you link to the original source. This builds your credibility, and gives credit to the original researchers.
Quick tip: If you’re using data in your blog post, you can also add [Research] or [Study] or [Data] in your title and make it more credible.
8. Multimedia Elements
It can be difficult for readers to stay focused while reading a long article, so whenever possible, use multimedia content to break your article up and re-engage readers. Here are some examples of multimedia elements that you can use to enrich your posts:
- Images & Illustrations
- Interactive graphs
- Social media posts
- Quote Visuals
- Presentation Slides
These elements not only add more value to your post but also make it more shareworthy. For example, suppose your post has a couple of images, an infographic and a video. Some might share your article because they liked the video, some might share it for the infographic. It’s also a great way to earn backlinks, which in turn, improves your post’s search rankings.
In fact, you can even make each of these multimedia elements individually shareable, and this will increase your post’s reach even further.
9. Satisfying Conclusion
As your article is coming to an end, let your readers know that your post is closing. Your conclusion doesn’t have to be lengthy but it should quickly summarize your blog post and provide a call-to-action. This brings us to the final point
10. A Compelling Call-to-Action
You don’t want people to leave your blog after the reading your post. Finish your conclusion with a useful call-to-action (CTA) that will engage the readers even after they’re done with your article. Here are some ways to do it:
- Offer advice, with further steps
- End your post with a question to encourage comments.
- Link to more resources and guidance from your blog
- Provide a checklist
They should feel that they’ve learned something useful from your post, and that there’s more to learn on your blog. Adding a CTA will only entice them to click a link or read more from your blog.
There’s no doubt that great content is the bedrock of every successful blog. However, by making a few SEO-Friendly changes to your post and presenting it in the right structure, you can amplify its reach and attract a lot more visitors to your blog.
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