Following a few basic rules to incorporate some search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques into your blog posts is the best way you can make your online content more effective.
If you’re a writer, like me, some of these rules can feel restrictive, like a crush on creativity. Try to think of them in a different way: following these rules is a writing challenge that, if met, will ensure more people can find and read your content.
If you’re not a natural writer, then these SEO rules will provide you with a bit of structure that should help you get over that bumpy bit you often experience staring at an empty screen, knowing what you need to say, but having no idea how to start.
Whether you’re a writer or not, following these simple SEO rules will help your blog posts rank better in Google and other search engines, helping funnel potential customers towards your company, products and services.
Why is this important? Our State of Writing research shows business communicators struggle with writing for SEO. Follow these tips and you’re already ahead of the game.
Before you start writing, know what keywords you need to include in your blog post. These are words people most commonly put into Google and other search engines to find companies, products and services like yours.
These keywords should really be specific to the topic of your blog post, but you’ll also have general keywords for your business or industry.
Without cramming, or making sentences that feel unnatural, include the most relevant keywords and phrases in your copy. Ideally, include a keyword in your opening sentence.
There are paid tools available, like SEMRush and Ahrefs, to help you find keywords. You can also find SEO specialists who, for a few hundred dollars, will generate a pretty good list of keywords for you. They’ll do the hard yards, identifying the high-volume/low-competition keywords that give you the best chance of ranking quickly.
If your budget is small you can also use Google’s own predictive answers in its search bar, or use a site like answerthepublic. These also give you what are called “semantic keywords” by showing you how the keywords are commonly used in search terms (and, therefore, how you should use them in your sentences).
These semantic keywords will give you some big clues about the questions your content needs to answer. This is a good place to start writing.
I tend to write better titles after I’ve finished writing the blog post, as I’m better able to distil down my big idea into an attention-grabbing headline.
Titles are extremely important for SEO and there’s both an art to it and a science.
Finally, run your ideas through a headline analyser to find the best possible title to use.
You won’t always want to write a long blog post. Sometimes short and sweet is all you need. It depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
But, if you want to impress the pants off Google and generate organic traffic from all over the world, then you should aim to create the most authoritative blog post on your topic on the whole dang internet.
Google and other search engines want to present their users with the most useful and relevant pages on the internet. A 2500-word keyword-rich article on birdwatching in the West Indies is more likely to be considered authoritative than a 300-word article. If your business is in Caribbean ecotourism and you’re trying to sell holiday packages to birdwatchers, then you should write the longer article.
It’s worth mentioning here that it takes more than just writing lots of words about a topic to convince Google you’re the most authoritative website on a topic on the internet. Google adds a bit of secret sauce, called Domain Authority, into its calculations.
We don’t know everything that goes into the sauce, but we do know one of the things Google considers is whether other, relevant websites are linking to your blog post. These are called backlinks and high-quality ones are super valuable.
Sometimes we write blog posts on topics that only have a short shelf life. Perhaps they’re about an event coming up, or one that has just been. What’s preferable though is to, where possible, create a piece of content that will still be as useful and relevant if someone reads it in a year, three years, 10 years, as it was the day it was published.
This is called “evergreen” content, and it means:
Evergreen content can be updated, as and when required, over time in order to keep it as relevant as possible and to tweak and improve its search engine ranking results.
Good examples of evergreen types of content include:
As you’re writing, make sure you include links to other webpages that might be of interest to your readers. If you mention a Harvard study, link to it. If you reference a New York Times article, include the link.
It’s also important to include links to other articles and pages on your own website, as it shows Google your site has a depth of information.
Make sure all links open in a new window.
I would not be without Yoast SEO. It’s a WordPress plug-in which, when you tell it the keyword you want to rank for, let’s you know with a traffic light system whether you’ve done enough for it to work. It’ll also give you a list of simple, actionable ideas to help you get from red or amber to green.
It’s like having your tutor sit beside you during an exam, telling you what you need to write in order to pass. It’s worth every penny.
The tips that follow include some of the kinds of things Yoast will help you get right.
Search engines use subheadings to calculate relevance, too. Each one should have a keyword.
Subheadings are great for breaking up long screeds of copy and you can also use them to indicate to a reader that you’re changing topics. They’re really useful, especially if you’re not a confident writer, as you can use them to create structure and ensure you cover all the important points you want to make.
Search engines love videos and images. Where possible, include original images and videos.
But whether you’re using original or stock visuals, make sure you complete all the metadata information you possibly can, as this is used by search engines to help work out if a page is relevant to someone’s search. So, include keyword-rich image titles, captions and descriptions.
A meta description is a short paragraph that tells a search engine (and an internet user) what your blog post (or webpage) is about.
It’s often the bit of text that gets displayed under a page title in search results, so after your headline it’s your second bite of the cherry when it comes to convincing consumers yours is the website they want to visit.
You have 155 characters. Spend some of them on keywords — preferably up-front.
Categories are like a table of contents for your blog — something search engines, users, and you can use to find content on certain topics. You can have as many categories as you like but try to keep it to a handful of relevant topics, and ensure every post has a category.
Tags, on the other hand, are more like an index at the back of a book. These indicate finer details about the blog. So, while a category might be “Human Resources,” a tag might be “Equal Opportunities,” “Talent Management” or “Executive Compensation.”
Hopefully, these tips will not just help you get started writing your blog post but will also have helped you understand how to get some of the SEO right. If you need support writing your content, get in touch. Typeset can help you write, edit and proofread blog posts, emails and other marketing collateral.
2021 global survey into writing effectiveness is now open: If you’d like to contribute to our State of Writing research for next year, please take the State of Writing 2021 survey. All participants will receive an early copy of the report (before publication).