10 Tips to Maximize Search Engine Optimize For Your Blog Content
If you are somewhat familiar with search engine optimization, you might already know that blogging helps you get ranked by positioning your website as a relevant answer to the needs of your consumers. But while most companies see blogging as an SEO tool, many fail to realize that you should actively be using SEO within these blogs as well. So today, we’re here to show you how using a variety of different SEO tactics for your blog posts can give you more opportunities to rank in search engines and increase site visitation.
1. Use a couple of long-tail keywords that appeal to your ideal reader's interest.
Remember, optimizing your blog posts for keywords does NOT mean flooding them with as many keywords as you can cram into a post. The act of "keyword cramming" is detrimental to your SEO because search engines mark and block this. They do this because it's essentially spamming keywords to try and rank highly for any search.
Not only will it hurt you, but it will also negatively impact your customers. Specifically, it will hurt your reader experience, which is a ranking factor that Google uses to determine which content it places at the forefront of consumer searches. Stuffing keywords makes any interaction you have with customers forced and not genuine, which means they likely did not find what they came to find. Never forget, It's about quality, not quantity.
Therefore, a heuristic to use is to narrow your content down to one or two long-tail keywords per blog post. Just because you have the option of using more than one keyword in a single post, it's more strategic to make your post content topical and have focus. This will allow you to spend time actually optimizing for just one or two keywords.
2. Include these 1–2 keywords in specific parts of your post.
The next step after you've acquired the keywords that you feel would fit best is to integrate them within your blog post. You should ask yourself: Where are the most optimal parts of your posts to include these terms, so you rank high?"
The fundamental building blocks of SEO lie within the four areas 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, making this a vital component of your post. 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 search engine results pages (SERPs). 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 relevancy. In the example below, we had a long title that went over 65 characters, so we front-loaded it with the keyword for which we were trying to rank: "on-page SEO."
Headers & Body
Mention your keyword at a regular 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 usually find you naturally optimize for relevant keywords, anyway.
Search engines also look to 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 tremendous opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every blog lives on its own 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."
Later in this post, we'll dive into meta descriptions a bit more. Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post's content -- so be sure to 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.
3. Make sure your blog is mobile-friendly.
Did you know more people use a search engine from their mobile phones than from a computer?
And for all those valuable search queries being made on mobile, 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.
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.
4. Optimize the meta description and use all the space.
To review, a meta description is an additional text that appears in SERPs that lets readers know what the link is about. The meta description gives searchers information they need to determine whether or not your content is what they're looking for and ultimately helps them decide if they'll click or not.
The maximum length of this meta description is more significant than it once was -- now around 300 characters -- suggesting it wants to give readers more insight into what each result will provide them with.
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 example above, 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. You'll also see the term "E-Newsletter" bolded, indicating that Google knows there's a semantic connection between "email newsletter" and "E-Newsletter."
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 is a case of two different search queries delivering two various snippets of text on Google SERPs. The first is a result of the query "no index no follow," and pulls in the original meta description:
The second is a result of the query "noindex nofollow," and draws 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.
5. Optimize your images' alt text.
Blog posts shouldn't only contain text -- you should also include images that help explain your content. But search engines don't just look for pictures. Instead, they look for images with alt text.
Because search engines can't "see" images the same way humans can, an image's alt text tells them what an image is about -- which ultimately helps those images rank in Google Images results. Alt text also makes for better user experience, as it'll display inside the image container when an image can't be found or posted and can improve accessibility for people with poor vision who are using screen readers.
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 (bolding added for emphasis):
<img class="wt-blog__normal-image" src="image.jpg" alt="image-description" title="image tooltip">
Adding keywords to your alt text may seem minor -- and it isn't going to impact your search rankings as much as other things on this list. But it is worth the extra minute it takes to change the name from "IMG23940" to something accurate and descriptive, like "puppies-playing-in-basket:"
6. Don't use too many similar 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, 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 material, it then 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 shortly to clear 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, and then only tag your posts with those keywords. That way, you won't have to worry about duplicate content.
7. Use URL structures that help your visitors.
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": http://blog.hubspot.com/sales. This URL structure helps me understand that "/marketing" and "/sales" are smaller sections -- called subdirectories -- within the more substantial 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, the 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 different parts of your blog or website.
Get more best practices for URL structure from Moz here.
8. Link internally when possible.
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.
9. Use Google's Search Console.
Google's free Search Console contains a section called the Search Analytics Report. This report helps you analyze clicks from Google Search, and it's useful to determine which keywords people are using to find your blog content. Learn how to use it by reading this blog post written by my colleague Matthew Barby, and by checking out Google's official support page here.
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.
A lot of 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.
10. Use topic clusters.
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. The result is disorganized and hard for the user to find the exact information he or she needs. It also results in your URLs competing against one another in search engine rankings when you produce multiple blog posts about similar topics.
Here's what our blog architecture used to look like using this old playbook:
Now, in order to rank in search and best answer the new types of queries searchers are submitting, the solution is to use the topic cluster model: 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 create more general search engine authority.
Using this model, this is what our blog infrastructure looks like now -- with specific topics surrounded by blog posts related to the topic, connected to other URLs in the cluster via 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.
If you want to speak with someone on our team you can book a time with us here: