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A Step-by-Step Guide
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Are you looking to attract clients to your blog from search engines? And actually get them to engage with and share your content?
If so, then stick around, because today I’m sharing powerful blog optimization SEO tips (and much more) to make that happen.
This step-by-step guide covers:
Ready to start attracting clients on autopilot? Let’s get started.
Note: This article includes affiliate links which means I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you click through and make a purchase.
Depending on who you ask, “optimization” can mean a variety of things. So let me clarify. Today I’m talking about specific actions you can take that help your post:
The reason you create content in the first place is to help your audience find you, communicate how you can help them, and demonstrate that you’re an expert, right?
Well, using these blog SEO optimization tips tips to polish your content will give it the very best chance to accomplish those goals.
aka how optimizing helps you find clients – or more accurately – clients find you
Here’s what Google says about keywords (emphasis mine):
In other words, when your page contains the actual keywords or phrases your potential clients use when they search, Google is more likely to choose your page to display.
There are other factors, of course, but including good keywords is crucial to being found.
So it pays to know what words and phrases your ideal clients use when they are searching for the products or services you provide.
Although it’s not the only kind of optimization I’m going to talk about today, optimizing for search (aka “SEO”) is the Big Kahuna of the optimization process. Because if our post doesn’t get found in search, the rest is kind of irrelevant.
And that leads directly to my next point, which is. . .
aka the first and most critical step you cannot afford to skip
So now we know. If we want to be found when our ideal clients are searching for us, we need to have the keywords and phrases they actually use on our pages.
But how can we know that?
With keyword research, of course! Which is the first and most important step you cannot afford to skip.
When you take the time to research keywords for your post, you exponentially increase your chance to be found by your intended audience.
I think we can all agree that’s something worth optimizing for! With that in mind, when you do your keyword research:
Preferably long-tail. This is the primary keyword you will be optimizing your post for. Note that each blog post or page you are optimizing should have its own unique focus keyphrase. It’s okay if they are very similar – but only one page per focus keyword. Got it?
Similar keywords and phrases people are searching for that mean basically the same thing as your focus keyphrase.
These are search terms related to your primary keyword.
PRO TIP: An easy way to find them is to look at the bottom of a Google search results page at the “Searches related to. . .” section.
Including these 3 types of keywords in your post will help search engines understand what your post is about and serve it up to more people who are looking.
NOTE: I am not going into the details of how to do Keyword Research here. That is a whole post until itself! But check out these resources to get you started.
aka quality is better than quantity and how that’s good news for you
Now that we’ve agreed that keyword research is nonnegotiable, let’s move on to the actual content of your post.
High quality content is widely accepted to be a major SEO ranking factor.
Which means it pays to take the time to create epic content that actually:
Creating comprehensive posts may feel like more work, but in the long run, it’s actually less.
That’s because when you take the time to produce epic, value-packed, evergreen content, you can create less of it overall. And it will continue working for you over the long haul.
Plus, that epic content can be repurposed into a variety of smaller, snackable bits of content that will keep your editorial calendar humming.
Finally, longer, more in-depth content is more often shared and linked to, so it’s more likely to help you reach your goals. It’s a win-win-win all the way around.
Well, that’s the real question, isn’t it?
Since the Panda update in 2011, Google has made it clear high quality content is prioritized. But it has not defined exactly what “high quality” means.
However, beyond just using our own good judgment, a bit of research does provide some specific actions we can take to create high quality content for both our readers and search engines.
It is well established that Google prefers longer content. Currently, about 2,000 words is the sweet spot.
But don’t get wordy just to fill the page. Write comprehensive content with clear, concise sentences (see the Readability section below for more on this).
Studies suggest that up to 60% of consumers will not make a purchase from a brand with poorly written content. That means proofreading for spelling and grammar is essential.
Make sure your content answers questions your audience is looking for or shares new insights they may not have seen before.
Does your content inspire trust and belief in the reader? Some ways to establish authority in your content are:
Don’t restate the obvious. Instead, strive to provide insightful analysis and interesting or useful information.
Do not keyword stuff. That hasn’t helped since the early days of blog optimization SEO. These days, keyword stuffing will reduce your ranking instead of increase it.
Work your keywords into sentences in a natural way that makes sense and flows with the rest of your article.
Always remember to write for actual readers, not search engine spiders. Google pays attention and will reduce your site ranking when they see readers click away immediately, never to return.
Your goal is to make your post engaging for humans. Doing that will satisfy both your audience AND the search engines.
aka how to make search engines (and readers) love you
Many people struggle with how to optimize blog posts for SEO. Hence, this post.
So, if you’re looking to write SEO friendly blog posts – this is your section. Below, I share specific blog optimization SEO tips that will help your content achieve maximum success.
It’s not required to use each and every one of these tips. But the more you can incorporate, the better your results will be.
Ready? Let’s get into the nitty gritty.
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Hold up though – that doesn’t mean you should use a shortening service like Bit.ly. It just means your content URLs should look like this:
instead of this. . .
See the difference?
The first is clear, easy to understand, easy to remember, and more likely to be shared. The second one makes your eyes cross by the time you reach the date.
But even more importantly, search engines will include every word in your URL when deciding what your post is about. So all those extra words confuse the issue and can actually reduce the ranking of your post.
So keep your URLs short and to the point to keep both your audience and the search engines happy.
PRO TIP: One easy way to shorten your URL is to leave out words such as “and, or, but, of, the, a”, etc. (known as “stop words”). Search engines don’t need them and they can help you pare your URL down to a lovelier length.
(Note: If you use WordPress, you can easily change your URL structure with the Permalinks setting. But remember – if you have existing content, you need to use 301 redirects to avoid losing all your current Google juice.)
Not only do dates make your URL longer, they also imply that the blog post is only relevant around that date. Which is something both humans AND search engines will assume.
Keep dates out of your URL to give evergreen content it’s longest lifespan.
A gold star for you if you noticed the URL example above was “focus-keyword-phrase” instead of “blog-post-title.”
That’s because your title should be optimized for readers (more on that in the next section), but your URL should be optimized for your keyword phrase. This reinforces the keyword for search engines.
And nope – your title and your URL don’t need to be the same. In fact, if they are each optimized properly, they most often won’t be.
This one is easy to demonstrate.
Which of these URLs makes you want to click through and read the post?
The first one tells you exactly what it’s about. You can guess on the second one. But the third one gives zero hints.
Be like the first one as much as you can.
An optimized title is an essential element of your post. It’s what catches your reader’s eye and convinces them to click through and read. So it’s worth taking some time to get it just right.
If you did your keyword research first, you may already have a functional title in mind that tells what the post is about. But that should rarely be the one you end up with.
Here are some tips to make the most of your blog post title and hopefully increase that organic click through rate (CTR is yet another ranking factor for Google).
To let your readers know that your post is in-depth, include words such as:
You get the idea.
Titles with numbers get +20% more clicks than those without and for some reason, odd numbers get the most of all. So, if it makes sense for your post, include an odd number.
This doesn’t just apply to list posts either. You can use a stat percentage or something else, as well. Experiment and see what works for you.
Here’s another quirky one!
Titles that include brackets or parentheses get nearly 40% more clicks than those without.
Weird, right? But a super easy way to boost that organic CTR.
Catch your reader’s eye with uncommon words that evoke an emotional response. Doing this is more art than science, I find.
Brainstorm as many different variations of your title as you can, then run them through the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Analyzer to see how you did. Keep tweaking until you get at least a 20% rating – and as much as higher as you can without spending a week on it..
Some studies suggest that a negative headline can get more click-throughs than a positive one.
For example, instead of “Best Practices for SEO Titles”
you might try “These Mistakes Are Killing Your SEO.”
As always, experiment and see if it works for you.
Can you phrase your headline as a question?
Create curiosity by changing your headline from “How birds migrate” to “Where (or Why) do birds migrate?”
You’ve probably noticed the Featured Snippets that Google now shows when you search for the answer to a question.
Snagging the coveted Featured Snippet spot is practically guaranteed to increase your traffic. And starting with a question is the very first step.
Aaaand, we’re talking about keywords again.
As discussed above, your keyword research should be complete before you start writing your post. So at this point, you know which keywords and phrases you want to use in your post. Right?
Now let’s talk about where to put them.
Obviously, you can sprinkle them throughout the text of your post, wherever they fit. But there are a few specific placements that can really make a difference in your SEO results.
Make sure to include your focus keyphrase in the first 100 words of your introduction to help search engines understand what your post is about.
As mentioned above, your headline doesn’t have to match your URL exactly. But it should include your focus keyphrase. And if possible, near the beginning of your headline.
Make sure to include your focus keyphrase in your URL. It’s okay for your Title and URL to be different, as discussed here.
Using your focus keyphrase or synonyms in your Headers and Subheaders is another clear signal to search engines of what your post is about. Include them if you can.
As mentioned above, your headline doesn’t have to match your URL exactly. But it should include your focus keyphrase. And if possible, near the beginning of your headline.
The Meta description is the little preview you see on the Google search results page.
PRO TIP: If you are using WordPress with the Yoast plugin, you can easily edit the Title Tag and Meta description in the Yoast settings on your post edit screen.
Another great place to include your focus keyphrase or synonyms is the names of your images. But make sure to name them BEFORE you upload them. Renaming them in the WordPress media editor doesn’t really change the image name from a search engine’s point of view.
Add your focus keyphrase in the Alt text for each image. Also include a brief description of what the image is about for accessibility tool users and search engines (more on this below).
Place your focus keyphrase or a synonym in as many of these places as possible to get maximum SEO juice. But as always – only if it feels natural. Shoe-horning them in just makes your blog post awkward and less authoritative.
Plus, you risk incurring the Google keyword-stuffing hammer. And nobody wants that.
There are a few mistakes with images I see ALL.THE.TIME that will directly impact your results.
So take note – these are things NOT to do with your images:
Instead, do this:
Different formats such as JPG or PNG are best for different types of images. It is definitely NOT one size fits all.
JPG is usually best for photographs. While PNG is often the best choice for vectors. But always play around to see which one gives you the clearest image with the smallest file size. Then continue to optimize them as below.
First, resize your image to the smallest display size that is appropriate for your post.
If it doesn’t need to be big so people can see all the detail, then do not make it big. If it does, make it only just as big as it needs to be – and no bigger.
Next, compress the image. There are a ton of free and easy online tools to help with this (see Resources below). Although it’s not always possible, aim for a final file size of 100kb or less to keep your page loading quickly.
Naming your image to match your focus keyphrase is a great way to add it into your post for SEO purposes. But for it to really work, you need to change the name before you upload it.
Even though WordPress allows you to change it in the Media editor, it doesn’t really stick. So, name your images before you upload to make sure Google sees what you want it to see.
As mentioned above, the Alt Text and Description are more opportunities to add your keyword phrase. However, the Alt Text should also give an idea of what the image is actually about.
So add your keyphrase, then continue on to briefly describe what the image shows for those who actually need it.
Okay, we’ve talked about search engines and keywords ad nauseam.
And although the optimizations we’ve discussed so far do help readers as well, there is still more we can do to polish up our post for our human audience.
In this section, let’s dive into tips that make your post readable, skimmable, snackable, and downright delicious.
I’m sure you’ve seen this tip before, but it’s a big one. You need to forget pretty much everything they taught you in school about how to write.
Want your posts to be more engaging? Swap out all those fifty-cent words for a simple, conversational style. Simplifying your content makes it easier for more people to understand.
Plus, your audience will feel you are speaking directly to them when you write as if you are speaking to a friend. And who doesn’t want that? I certainly do.
But when you write your blog posts like an essay or research paper. . . well, that’s just no bueno. Best case scenario – you will put your readers to sleep. Worst case? They’ll (you know what I’m going to say, right?) click away, never to return.
So, keep it natural, yo!
After you finish your post, read back through and sub in shorter or easier words where possible.
Don’t sacrifice clarity, but ask yourself: Is there another word that works as well or better than that long one?
Generally speaking, shorter sentences are quicker and easier to absorb for readers. Readable.com outlines exactly what “short” means:
Use these guidelines as a reminder to edit out the fluff and get to your point when you write.
BUT. . .don’t try to only write sentences that are 8 words or less.
For optimal readability, you want a mix of shorter and longer sentences. That doesn’t mean *long* sentences, just longER. An entire paragraph of one or the other is just, well, weird.
Don’t be weird, use a natural mix. Just remember that shorter is usually better.
Sensing a trend here? Yep, your paragraphs should be short as well. This is how we avoid the dreaded Wall of Text.
I see this all the time with show notes for podcasts and videos. Giant blocks of text unrelieved by paragraph, headers, subheaders, or images. Not even an indicator of who is saying what. Ugh.
Whether it’s a blog post or a transcript, break those paragraphs up. 1-3 to sentences per paragraph is fine.
Remember – white space is your friend.
Question: Why do some people use tiny little fonts on their blogs?
Is there some kind of award I’m not aware of for successfully reading 10 point text from 3 feet away?
Be kind to your readers. Don’t make them have to squint to read your site.
You know why? Because they will (say it with me now). . . click away, never to return.
As mentioned above, white space is your friend. Having lots of room to breathe makes your content look friendly and inviting. Whereas tight, cramped content is daunting and feels uncomfortable.
Be friendly. Use plenty of white space.
PRO TIP: Go browse web site design sites. See all the white space they use? Do that.
Accept this hard truth: the vast majority of your “readers” won’t actually read your blog post.
So if you want to keep them on your page long enough to get to the bottom, you need to make your content Skimmable.
The way to do that is to break your content up into easily digestible chunks. Here’s how:
In other words, the longer your post, the more you need to break it up and make it visually interesting. Highlight the most important parts so they can’t be missed.
Make it easy for your readers to scan and skim the way they want to. They’ll love you for it and come back for more.
Of course, there are times when the passive voice is the right one to use. But most of the time, active is a better choice. It’s simpler. More clear. Energetic.
Write your first draft however you like. But during editing, try to change some (or all) of the passive voice sentences to active.
Then revel in how much better it is.
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So, here we are with an epic post that’s perfectly written, keyword optimized, and so darn readable a blind squirrel couldn’t put it down.
It’s so beautiful, the whole world should see it!
So let’s make this post uber-shareable so that readers can’t resist sharing it with all their friends, neighbors, and social followers.
Here we go.
First things first. Cover the basics and make sure you offer easy-to-use sharing buttons on your blog. If you are using WordPress, there are a gajillion plugins for this if your theme doesn’t already include them.
Make sure it’s a no-brainer for readers to one-click your awesome-sauce post over to their favorite social platform.
PRO TIP: Displaying the share buttons above the fold gets up to 63% more views than those further down the page.
Visual content is said to be 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks.
In fact, just adding one image – ANY image – will boost your credibility by up to 75% and generate up to 94% more views on social media.
But let’s see if we can do that one better. Think of the things you like to share when you aren’t wearing your business hat (hint: it’s probably not some dry article with an overused stock photo).
Professional quality photos, graphics, and infographics are much more likely to be shared than a boring, stereotypical stock image.
Using custom, unusual, or particularly impactful (but always high quality!) images and graphics can increase your shareability factor. So make an effort to find the right images, not just the most convenient ones.
Pinterest can be an incredible traffic driver – IF you optimize for it. But you need to remember Pinterest requires a different image format than other social networks.
So, why bother? Because Pinterest pins have a much longer lifespan than posts on other social platforms. They can show up in search results for weeks or months after they were published.
Don’t miss out on that practically immortal traffic – make it easy to pin your content.
Note that Pinterest prefers tall images (1000px wide x1500px or any other 2:3 ratio). Make sure you have at least one or two of those embedded in your post for readers to pin.
PRO TIP: Optimizing Pins in your content is super-easy with the Tasty Pins plugin. You can control which image is pinned, make sure an optimized description is included, and much more.
HubSpot found that blog posts with embedded SlideShares generated an average of 34% more views and 29% more inbound links for their content.
Wow! Stats like that make spending a few minutes to create a slide deck for your post worthwhile.
You can use Canva (my favorite) or other design tool to easily create a slide deck based on your post.
PRO TIP: Don’t try to include your entire post, especially if it’s long. Just hit the main points in your slide deck to get the main message across. After all, the whole point of this shareable content is to lead new audiences back to your site. So embed an eye-catching slideshare that invites the reader to visit your site for the full article.
In addition to the benefits discussed above, longer content is 52% more likely to be shared. Aim for at least 2,000 words.
Mix up the media you add to your post. A variety of media is more likely to catch the attention of your audience and inspire a share.
So how can we think beyond the static image?
What else can you think of?
A post with a featured image is 150% more likely to be retweeted and receive 53% more likes on Facebook.
You know that request for shares at the end of your post?
Turns out that customizing that request can improve shares by 42%.
So instead of a generic, “Share this post,” try “Share these amazing SEO tips.”
Over a quarter (27%) of ALL social shares occur between 8am – Noon EST.
to kick it up a notch
By now, you should have a gorgeous blog post perfect for sharing and optimized to within an inch of its life.
Buuut. . . if you want all the Google juice you can get, here are a few finishing touches to kick your post over the top.
Time to git ‘er done.
Let’s be real. Optimizing for search can be a massive understanding affected by seemingly a million facets. That’s why there are people who do nothing but SEO.
The art and science of SEO encompasses everything from your audience, keywords, and search intent to page speed, mobile-responsiveness, and domain authority. Plus a bunch of other technical stuff I don’t even know about. So, when you want to get *really* serious about your SEO, it’s time to get in touch with an SEO expert.
But until then, there are still some simple things we can do to optimize our blog for client attraction.
Such as. . .
There are many things that Google looks at to determine the authority of your website. Including a collection of things called “Brand Signals.” Consequently, one way to show Google that you’re a legit brand and not some fly-by-night huckster is to establish a complete online presence.
To do this, create accounts at top tier social platforms. The list changes as trends evolve, but right now your best bet is to at least have accounts at:
Make sure you setup your profile completely with a keyword-rich description, add your website link, share blog posts or important pages from your site, and add your physical address, if applicable. Link to 3-5 of the accounts on your website.
Do your best to get the same brand name across all social accounts. If one is already taken, get the next closest option. And be as active as you feasibly can on your favorite platforms.
Collecting visitor emails on your website can act as another brand signal to Google. And even more importantly, it’s a first step to taking your visitors from mildly interested to happy customer.
So setup up a way viewers can sign up to receive your emails and stay in touch.
Mobile responsiveness is more important than ever. Your audience is using phones and tablets to access your content more and more everyday. If your site is not mobile responsive, you are definitely losing viewers.
An easy way to achieve this with WordPress is to install a responsive theme. See the Resources below for some options.
A backlink is when someone links to your website from their website, usually to some specific content you published.
Search engines see these links as “votes” for the pages that get backlinks. The more backlinks you have from high-authority sites, the more Google juice you get.
Getting backlinks can be challenging, but it’s a goal worth chipping away at over time. See the Resources below for help to get started.
This one is my favorite!
Applying the tips in this post to new posts is great. But don’t forget about your existing content. For exponential results, update and optimize your older blog posts to get even more traffic. #NoMoreOneAndDoneContent
See Resources below for a free tool to find the best posts to refresh.
aka why images visuals are worth a thousand words
Maybe you’ve noticed how many times some type of visual has come up in this post. They’ve been mentioned in nearly every single topic encompassed by this article.
So I decided that visuals deserved a section all their own. And when I say visuals, I’m including graphics, photos, infographics, videos, and more.
Let’s look at the ways visuals help your blog posts be awesome. You’ll quickly see the benefit of taking time to find, optimize, and include great visuals in your posts.
(Everything here – bounce time, average time on site, back links, etc. – are Google ranking factors.)
It’s clear that visuals are a critical element we can’t afford to ignore for our blog. But how to distill all these stats and figures into actions?
Not to worry. I’ve got you covered.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to be anal retentative about it and carefully place one visual every 75-10 words. Instead, just figure the total word count in your blog post. Divide by a number between 75 and 100 (your choice) and make sure your post includes that many visuals.
Remember, that can be a mix of photos, gifs, infographics, memes, videos, etc. Mix it up!
BUT – they need to be relevant. Random visuals will not get you where you want to go.
Always include an image when you post on social networks. Preferably the most interesting, unusual, or relevant one.
Except possibly LinkedIn. There is some talk that LinkedIn is seeing good engagement with text-only posts. As with anything, test things out and see what works for you. Your audience might be the one that loves text-only.
You can add Twitter cards to your blog posts in two ways – either manually adding the code via the WordPress Text editor or via a plugin. See the Resources section below for details.
Images don’t *have* to be tall (Pinterest preferred format). But you will get better engagement with them after they are pinned if they are.
So make a point to include some Pinterest-friendly images in your post to encourage that sweet, sweet long-term Pinterest traffic.
Picture lists are an easy way to create ever-popular list posts. And they have the added benefit of requiring less writing.
But – curating great images is the key to success with type of post. See the Resources below for a how-to.
aka now it’s up to you
Now, over to you!
I created this guide to help you leverage the power of SEO and optimization for your own blog. But it only works if you take action.
I challenge you to implement as many of these tips over time as you can and enjoy the results!
PRO TIP: Don’t try to do everything at once. Start by adding a few tips into your usual workflow. Then add more after those feel easy.
I’d love to hear from you!
Which strategy from this guide will you try first?
Or maybe I didn’t mention your favorite optimization tip.
Either way – let me know by leaving a comment below right now.
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