Why Is Blog SEO Important?
Search engines are a super important traffic source for blogs.
A recent survey of over 1000 bloggers found that SEO was their 3rd most important source of traffic (just behind email marketing).
Use 1–2 long-tail keywords.
Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Nowadays, this hurts your SEO because search engines consider this keyword stuffing (i.e., including keywords as much as possible with the sole purpose of ranking highly in organic search).
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.
A good rule of thumb is to focus on one or two long-tail keywords per blog post. While you can use more than one keyword in a single post, keep the focus of the post narrow enough to allow you to spend time optimizing for just one or two keywords.
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.
Use keywords strategically throughout the blog post.
Now that you’ve got one or two keywords, it’s time to incorporate them in your blog post. But where is the best place to include these terms so you rank high in search results?
There are four essential places where you should try to include your keywords: title tag, headers & body, URL, and meta description.
The title (i.e., headline) of your blog post will be a search engine’s and reader’s first step in determining the relevancy of your content. So, including a keyword here is vital. 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, and 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.
Headers & Body
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 probably think about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s a smart idea, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, nor even your primary focus.
Whenever you create content, your primary focus should be on what matters to your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword or keyword phrase in that content. 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. You have a huge opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every post lives on its unique URL — so make sure you include your one to two keywords in it.
In the example below, we created the URL using the long-tail keyword for which we were trying to rank: “email marketing examples.”
Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post’s content. Meaning, you must use your long-tail term so Google and your audience are clear on your post’s content.
At the same time, keep in mind the copy matters a great deal for click-through rates because it satisfies certain readers’ intent — the more engaging, the better.
Optimize for mobile devices.
We learned earlier that more people use search engines from their mobile phones than from a computer.
And for all those valuable queries being searched on mobile devices, Google displays the mobile-friendly results first. This is yet another example of Google heavily favoring mobile-friendly websites — which has been true ever since the company updated its Penguin algorithm in April 2015.
(HubSpot customers: Breath easy. All content created on HubSpot’s platform is automatically responsive to mobile devices.)
So, how do you make your blog mobile-friendly? By using responsive design. Websites that are responsive to mobile allow blog pages to have just one URL instead of two — one for desktop and one for mobile, respectively. This helps your post’s SEO because any inbound links that come back to your site won’t be divided between the separate URLs.
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.
Pro tip: What search engines value is constantly changing. Be sure you’re keeping on top of these changes by subscribing to Google’s official blog.
Include image alt text.
Blog posts shouldn’t only contain text — they should also include images that help explain and support your content. However, 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.
Image alt text also makes for a better user experience (UX). It displays inside the image container when an image can’t be found or displayed. Technically, alt text is an attribute that can be added to an image tag in HTML.
Here’s what a complete image tag might look like:
<img class="wt-blog__normal-image" src="image.jpg" alt="image-description" title="image tooltip">
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:
- Describe the image
- Leave out “image of… “— start with the image description instead
- Be specific in your description
- Keep it under 125 characters
- Use your keywords (but avoid keyword stuffing)
HubSpot customers: The SEO Panel will recognize whether or not you have optimized your images. Though these elements are not as important as some other optimizations, they’re still necessary (not to mention, easy to add).
Limit topic tags.
Topic tags can help organize your blog content, but if you overuse them, they can be harmful. If you have too many similar tags, you may get penalized by search engines for having duplicate content.
Think of it this way, when you create a topic tag (which is simple if you’re a HubSpot user, as seen here), you also create a new site page where the content from those topic tags will appear. 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 isn’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.
Here at HubSpot, we use a Search Insights Report to map specific MSV-driven keyword ideas to a content topic each quarter. The process helps us target a handful of posts in a set number of topics throughout the year for a systematic approach to SEO and content creation.
Include user-friendly URL structures.
Before you publish your blog post, take a careful look at its URL structure. Is it long, filled with stop-words, or unrelated to the post’s topic? If so, you might want to rewrite it before it goes live.
The URL structure of your web pages (which are different from the specific URLs of your posts) should make it easy for your visitors to understand the structure of your website and the content they’re about to see. Search engines favor web page URLs that make it easier for them and website visitors to understand the content on the page.
This differentiation is baked into the HubSpot blogs’ respective URL structures. If I decided to go to the Marketing section from this main page, I would be taken to the URL http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing.
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”? Its URL structure — http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-do-keyword-research-ht — denotes that it’s an article from the Marketing section of the blog.
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.
Link to related blog posts.
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 blog posts can have a positive impact on how well your blog site ranks, too.
Inbound links to your content help show search engines the validity or relevancy of your content. The same goes for linking internally to other pages on your website. If you’ve written about a topic that’s mentioned in your blog post on another blog post, ebook, or web page, it’s a best practice to link to that page.
(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.
HubSpot customers: The SEO Panel automatically suggests linking to other internal resources on your website.
You can think of this as solving for your SEO while also helping your visitors get more information from your content.
Review metrics regularly.
Google’s free Search Console contains a section called the Search Analytics Report. This report helps you analyze clicks from Google Search — it’s useful to determine which keywords people are using to find your blog content. You can also learn how to use Google Search Console by reading this blog post written by my colleague Matthew Barby, and by checking out Google’s official support page.
If you’re interested in optimizing your best-performing older blog posts for traffic and leads like we’ve been doing since 2015, this tool can help identify low-hanging fruit.
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.
But, when you publish blog posts frequently and consistently optimize them for search while maintaining an intent-based reader experience, you’ll reap the rewards in the form of traffic and leads long-term.
Publish evergreen content.
When planning and writing your blog articles, ensure it’s evergreen content. Meaning, the content is about topics that will remain relevant and valuable over a long period (with only minor changes or updates). Let’s look at a few reasons why evergreen content is so important:
- It’ll help you rank over time, not just in the near future.
- It contributes to steady amounts of traffic coming to your blog (and website) long after it’s been published.
- It’ll help you generate leads over time as a result of the traffic it continually generates.
All blog content — whether it’s a long-form article, how-to guide, FAQ, tutorial, and so on — should be evergreen. Even the images you use in these posts should be evergreen. Check out this blog post for some examples of and ideas for evergreen content on your blog.
Update existing content.
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 gains 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 (especially if it’s evergreen content).
The final step entails removing your 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.
Create Blog Content Your Readers (and Search Engines) Will Love
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 identify 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.
SEO Tips for Bloggers
As you can imagine, backlinks can be difficult to acquire. They require a good deal of effort and can be tricky especially for someone just starting.
In my opinion, you should first build a great foundation for your blog before you get backlinks. So for the rest of this article, I’m going to focus on on-page SEO techniques.
Keep in mind Google uses more than 200 different metrics to rank a webpage. I’ll touch on some of the technical SEO aspects of your WordPress blog.
Let’s discuss the ones that give you the biggest “bang for your buck.”
For better writing SEO, check out my other article on SEO writing.
1. Your Choice in WordPress Hosting
WP Engine is my go-to web hosting company when I create a WordPress blog. Unlike many other providers, WP Engine specializes only in WordPress hosting. But that means you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want a host for your email as well. WP Engine has many features specific to WordPress, such as caching. Plus, a content delivery network (CDN) is automatically included. If you’re looking for a reliable and fast hosting provider for your WordPress blog, WP Engine is your choice.9.0Out of 10
|Price||$21 – $203 per month|
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The most important thing is your choice of web hosting provider. A slow web-hosting provider has a cascade effect on everything else. My choice for speed is WP Engine is perhaps the best option at a reasonable price. (If you’re interested, I discuss other options that may be better suited to you in my “Best WordPress Hosting for Bloggers” article.)
Improve Your WordPress Webpage Speed
With SEO and users, page load time is important. Speed up your website by minifying your files and using a CDN with this plugin. WP Rocket is my recommended WordPress plugin to increase your blog’s speed.9.5Out of 10
|Price||$49 – 249 per year|
A slower webpage will rank lower. According to Google, one full second can decrease conversion rates by 70%! You have only seconds to make your first impression, so you must make them count!
To test your blog, visit GTmetrix. The site has a free tool that shows you how long it takes to load your WordPress site.
How fast should your webpage load? A good rule of thumb is less than five seconds, with a more ideal time of fewer than three seconds. If your blog is taking more than seven seconds to load, look out!
Unfortunately, WordPress is a resource hog. Usually, the more plugins you have installed, the slower your website runs. But the only way to extend the functionality of WordPress is via plugins. So you must strike a balance.
However, you should know that not all plugins are created equal. Some plugins are well developed, while many others are not.
To speed up WordPress, I recommend using WP Rocket.
WP Rocket is a commercial plugin that minifies, combines files, and caches your content. This speeds up the time it takes to load your blog.
Improving load times is an article unto itself, and at some point, I’ll discuss it in more detail.
In this article, I’ve just touched the surface of optimizing your blog for SEO.
Being a blogger is hard. You know that I know that and your visitors know this too. It’s not just the fact that you have to create great content for your audience, it’s also the fact that you have to do everything else to help your blog grow. That includes SEO. If you want to get more traffic and make money with your blog, there’s no way around SEO!