If you are a blogger, then chances are good that you have designs on your content being found, read, and acted upon. Otherwise, why not just keep a diary, right?
Okay, okay…I know that people blog for a variety of reasons and that some of these reasons do not involve extracting every last possible visitor out of every piece of content that gets published.
However, for those of you who are looking to harness the power of search engine optimization to drive more traffic to your blog, this post will give you six simple tips to guide you in optimizing your blog posts for search engines.
Blog Post Optimization Tip #1: Have a plan
If this sounds simple, well good. It should.
I know that search engine optimization has a reputation for being some kind of black magic voodoo, but I am here to tell you that it is not. Search engine optimization is actually a relatively intuitive process of telling a search engine robot what your page is about and then *gasp!* actually making your page about what you say it’s about.
To do that effectively, you need to have a plan.
For example, my plan for this post is to have it be optimized for the keyword phrase “optimizing for search engines”, among a few others that are related. Skim this page and tell me if you quickly gather that as the basic gist. It is not by accident.
Blog Post Optimization Tip #2: Do a little homework
I could have said that I wanted to optimize this post for the keyword phrase “Jerod Morris rules”, but that would have been incredibly foolish.
For starters, only I and perhaps my mother actually believe that. Credibility is important; a post focused on such a fallacy would immediately ruin the credibility of H2B.
Secondly, and most importantly, no one is conducting a Google search for the phrase “Jerod Morris rules”, and I know this because I can research it using Google’s keyword research tool.
Here is the search volume for “Jerod Morris rules” (cue: sad face by me):
Because I took a quick two minute jaunt over to the keyword research tool before writing this post, I know that, on average, the term “optimizing for search engines” is searched 390 times per month. The green bar shows me that the competition level is not overly prohibitive either. Additionally, I learned a few related phrases that will work as well, including one “optimize for search engines”, that has nearly double the search volume but a little higher competition level to deal with.
Blog Post Optimization Tip #3: Remember the title (tag)
You know the movie Remember the Titans? Good. Well when it comes to optimizing a blog post for search engines, no one cares about the titans; you need to remember the title, and understand the difference between your blog post title and your SEO title tag.
The SEO title is the one that search engines use to set their expectations for what your page will be about. It is also the title that shows up in the search engine results pages after your perform a query. The blog post title is the one that your readers see when they are on your blog.
If you are a WordPress user, a plugin like Platinum SEO Pack will allow you to create an SEO title that differs from your blog post title. This is important when you want to optimize your post for specific keywords but also want to have a catchy title to entice your readers to click on the post.
Here are a two quick rules of thumb for creating your two different titles:
- SEO title: make sure that you include your primary keywords; be as “catchy” and “stylish” as you can be without sacrificing keywords.
- Blog post title: make every effort to include as many of your keywords as possible, while also keeping in mind that you want a title that catches the eye of readers.
There is no exact science for this, but I promise that you will get better with practice.
Blog Post Optimization Tip #4: Use your keywords in your content
You have your plan and you’ve researched your keywords. Now, you need to make sure that you can weave your keywords into your post naturally. Readers and search engines are pretty good at recognizing spam, and you will be knocked down in the eyes of both if your page seems spammy.
Notice how I’ve weaved my keywords into this post without really forcing it? That’s what you want to do.
A general rule of thumb is that you want your primary keyword(s) to be around 2.5% of your content. This seems pretty reasonable to me. The goal is to make sure that there is no doubt about what your most prominent keywords are, without doing so in a way that makes your reader get a headache.
Blog Post Optimization Tip #5: Make effective use of external linking
If you have even the most basic understanding of SEO, you understand that inbound links are the most valuable currency for search engine optimization. However, strategic external links on your page can also have a positive impact on how optimized that page is.
Here are the keys:
- Link on keyword-appropriate anchor text
- Link out to high authority sites
For example, it would be prudent for me to include at least one link in this post to an external source that will help you in optimizing your blog post for search engines. I also think that a link discussing whether you should focus more on search engines or on users when you are optimizing a blog post would be helpful.
See what I did there?
Now, I could have said “go to the Submit Express Analyzer” and placed my hyperlink on “Submit Express Analyzer” but I would have sacrificed an opportunity add a little more SEO juice to my post. The same is true for the Matt Cutts video linked to in the preceding paragraph.
It is only natural that search engines are going to place importance on the links in your post. If you are linking out to another site, chances are it is germane to the content of the post. Thus, the anchor text upon which that link appears will carry a little bit more weight than regular text on the page.
So, if you are writing a post about optimizing for search engines, include at least a few links on your keywords. Every little bit helps. And speaking of…
Blog Post Optimization Tip #6: Pay attention to the “invisible” details
There are a variety of places within a blog post where you can include keywords that your reader will, for the most part, never see. Search engines, on the other hand, will see these areas.
It is important that you be consistent throughout your post and take advantage of every opportunity to remind a search engine robot that your content is about exactly what your title tag says it is about.
Here are a few of these “invisible” but important areas:
- Post URL: Your post URL is a great place to include keywords. Notice how the last part of the URL for this post is /6-tips-optimizing-for-search-engines. Once again, we have included our keywords and communicated to both readers and search engine robots what this post is about.
- Image URLs: Look at the images of the keyword research above. Right click on them to copy the URL and then paste it into a new tab. Here are the back ends of the URLS: /optimize-for-search-engines.jpg and /optimizing-for-search-engines.jpg. By using keywords in the names of these images, we created URLs that are optimized for this post. Search engines crawl your entire page; the more diversity in how you remind them of your main idea and keywords, the better.
- Image Title and ALT tag: Every image presents an opportunity to provide a title and an ALT tag. Once again, why not include your keywords here?
- Post tags: Remember above how I said that external links on keyword-focused anchor text are important? Post tags give you an easy place to do this, even if you could not find a relevant source to link out to within the body of your post. See how there are tags at the bottom of this post that are clickable links? This is another great place to include your keywords. And think about it: why shouldn’t your post be tagged with keywords? If it shouldn’t, maybe you didn’t follow tips #1 and #2 very well.
Summary & Conclusion
Ultimately, optimizing a blog post for search engines is a combination of science and art.
First, make sure that you are targeting keywords with enough search volume to make the effort worth your while. Then, use all of the tools at your disposal – title tags, content, images, tags, external links, etc. – to craft a piece of content that is easy to read and informative for your users while also being consistent and clear to search engines.
A post that is effective for both audiences is truly the holy grail of SEO.
If you can convert search engine traffic into readers who are inspired to follow your call to action, retweet your post, or link to it on their blog, you achieve your goals and the post (plus your domain) actually becomes more optimized for the future and drives more future traffic.
And, amazingly, you really can do all of this without resorting to black magic voodoo. All you need is a plan, some keywords with search volume to target, and a well crafted post. Then let your readers and the search engines do the rest.