Optimize Your Blog for Search With These 6 Simple Steps

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Do you have a blog that is struggling to gain the organic results in search you want? While “content is king”, simply posting more blog articles won’t generate results. In this video, I’ll share how to optimize your blog posts to make sure you rank in the search results.

Slide Deck:

Video Transcript:

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So like I said in the intro, we’re going to be looking at how to optimize our blog for search, and we’re going to go over six simple steps that you can take every time you publish a piece of content to make sure that it is going to work for you.

A lot of people buy into the belief that content is king. Content is extremely important, but the reality is if you just create a bunch of content it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to rank. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to drive organic traffic. There are tons of blogs on the web, trillions of pages on the internet that get no traffic. I don’t know about trillions, but you know what I’m saying. There’s a lot of content out there where people spend time and energy and effort creating, and sometimes they don’t spend any effort in creating, and that’s one of the reasons they’re not getting traffic.

But the reality is, not everybody is going to rank. When you’re talking about page one, there are only ten spots for every query. So what do we need to do to ensure that our content gets seen? That’s what we’re going to be looking at in this video.

Step one is keyword research. Now if you’ve been in content marketing, you’ve been in SEO, this is something you’ve probably heard. You need to do keyword research. There’s been a big push in the last year or so that’s saying keywords don’t matter and all this kind of stuff because Google is moving more to topic-based content. Well, topics are important. Google understands how topics are connected together. The search algorithm is getting smarter. Users typically look for things that are topically related, the reality is though, they still use keywords. And everybody uses different types of keywords. If you look at Google, the majority of searches are not searches for broad topics, but very specific long-tail queries.

This is why it’s important to do your research so you understand one, what people are searching and two, how they’re searching. And that’s going to help you understand the third point, which is really the most important one, why are they searching? What are they trying to get from this specific search? There’s a lot of great tools out there, like Moz Keyword Explorer, SERPs has a number of great keyword tools, and SEMrush has a lot of really good keyword tools and topic tools and content tools. And then finally Google Ads Keyword Planner is another great tool.

You want to look for things like volume and competition, the relevancy to what you’re trying to rank for as far as a topic or a theme. The reason these are important is because again, you’re trying to match their intent. And you want to make sure you’re targeting terms that are getting traffic, that people are really searching.

I can’t tell you the number of times that we’ve done consults for people where they’re saying, “These are the terms we need to rank for,” and I’ve gone back and said, “There’s no traffic for these terms, people are actually looking for these type of terms when they’re relating themselves to your business.” So it’s really important that you do your research upfront, that way you don’t waste your time writing or really worrying about ranking for things that people aren’t searching for.

This brings us to step two, so you’ve done your research and now you need to start to generate some topics. This can be one of the hardest parts of writing, I know what terms I want to write for, but I don’t know what to write about. There are a lot of types of content that generate traffic, but these are a couple of content ideas or topic ideas that may be a little bit different than what you’re always seeing.

The first one is cost, looking at different articles about how things cost, this can be their monetary cost or it can be what it costs them as far as time or energy. These are great ways to create lists and read content around this and could cost you time or energy or this is how much it’s going to cost you if you don’t take this action. These are good pieces of content too for lower in the funnel when people are starting to make that buying decision. When you can start to press on cost, both the financial side and also what it could cost them as far as time goes.

You can tackle problems like problems. People have questions. They’re having an issue with something. Well, find that issue, you know frequently asked questions, something like that, and then turn that into a blog post and write about that specific problem and how you’ve met that problem before, worked with customers to deal with that problem. You can do comparisons, those are very easy things you can do. You can do reviews, reviewing companies or tools or different solutions within your niche. This can be extremely helpful to start generating content around. Or you can do like best articles, like best content, best software, best feature, best ways to do x, y, z. These are all really good ways to start getting your mind thinking about content ideas.

What I like to do is generate as many ideas as possible and then work through which are going to be the best ideas for us to write about. And again you want to have good ideas and good topics because that’s going to help people begin to read. And once they get into reading your content and engaging with your content it’s going to help them get what they’re looking for. And when they get what they’re looking for and you meet that intent, Google is going to help you rank that content higher. They’re going to say this is a good piece of content, people are engaging with this content, it should have more visibility.

Now, if this isn’t helping you there’s a lot of other tools that we can use online to help us also develop topics. One of those is Google Trends. This is where we can put in our keywords and we can see trends over time, we can see if a keyword is trending up or down, we can also see the seasonality of how people are searching for different things. These are really good when you’re looking at am I heading in the right direction? Should I put this piece of content out during this time of the year? Google Trends is going to help you with that. Google Suggest will give you topic ideas. That’s when you’re typing in a query and the search results is giving you like ten or twelve other things that they’re thinking you’re trying to search for. Some of them may be relevant, some of them may be off the wall. It’s not a perfect tool, but it can be helpful.

Probably one of the best tools is People Also Ask For. When you’re looking for content, these are specific queries that people have typed in and Google is saying, “People who have typed in the query you’re typing in have also asked these questions.” You know, that problems list that we talked about in the slide before, you can get most of your questions right from the people who also asked for box, the best part about it is, people already asked these to Google so you know that people are searching them.

Google-related search, which is very similar to suggest but it’s at the bottom of the page. It can give you a couple of other ideas or concepts that you could begin to write about. And if none of those work, a keyword tool that I know is really great, gives you a list of topics that people are searching for, not only to Google but other search engines as well.

Once you’ve got your keywords done and now you’ve figured out what you’re going to write about, you need to optimize your post after you’ve written it. A lot of people don’t take the time to do this, now doing these steps; it’s not going to guarantee that you’re going to get traffic, but what it’s going to do is help make sure that your post is optimized for the search engine. They understand what the content is about and how to index it.

So we’re going to look at six subsections into this that are going to deal with optimizing your post. Let’s get started. The first one’s your title. You want to put your keyword in your title. This is the name of the piece of content that you’re writing, the heading of your article. Again, it’s going to set that tone for the reader and it’s also going to help the search engines understand what you’re writing about. Allow them to see what your topic is, and you want to put it as close to the beginning as possible. It adds that level of context and another reason is a lot of times the title of your article also ends up being your title tag and you also want to have that keyword as forward as you can in your title tag. So usually best practice is you can get your keyword in the front and it makes sense, that’s the key, you’ve got to make sure it makes sense, especially with blog content. That’s really good practice.

The next thing is your header, so these are the H1 through H6 that you can use to break up your content. Now a lot of people use these specifically for design purposes like H1’s the biggest text, and H6 is the smallest version of your header. That’s one way to use it, but the real way that headers are used is for breaking up different sections of content. It allows the search engines to understand this is a subsection of the main piece. Now there’s a myth that you need to have H1s, well you just need to have a header, and the header should be using your keywords or your headers, whatever your highest one is, so let’s say you don’t have an H1 but you’ve got an H2, Google’s going to treat that as the main heading of your page. So like, you have an H1, well so you don’t, H2, it’s going to assume that the H1 is the most important subheader, and then you kind of the hierarchy, so two, three, four, five. And it will look at it in that category.

So use headers. It looks nicer when you break the page up, but also it helps the search engine understand the sub-context of your piece of content. Now your body is important, this is what you’re writing about, and this is what people are reading. Now one of the biggest things that people do wrong here is try to stuff as many keywords in as possible. That may put you in a lot of trouble. One, Google will just ignore it, say these guys are stuffing. And then the worst part maybe even more than anything is that your reader is going to go, “This content doesn’t make any sense. These people don’t know what they’re talking about, I’m moving on.”

I get there’s a lot of content on this page and don’t worry because we’re going to have a link to the Slide Deck available, both in the blog post on our website as well as in the description of the YouTube video. But instead of doing that, what you want to do is use semantic keywords, or what is called LSI keywords, which stand for latent semantic indexing. That’s a big word that really just means topically related. This means you want to use words, so if we’re writing a piece of content about SEL, we also want to use terms like a search engine and Google and searches and searching, so all of those terms Googling are related to one another. And those will be an LSI term for the main topic, which would be SEL. Make sure you use those and add them in. Now again, don’t force anything. Write naturally and then go back and see where you can edit and maybe add a little more context or depth by putting some of these terms in. It should sound natural, it should sound like a human wrote it because that’s really important to be human.

Now another thing you want to think about is the length of your content. The content should be as long as it needs to be to get your point across, but sometimes you need to go deeper and you really need to explain things and expound on things. And this can help you have more context in what you’re writing for, and if you cover a subject more completely it can actually help you rank higher. Now this is led to longer pieces of content ranking better than shorter pieces of content. This isn’t to say that if you have a short piece of content it can’t rank, there are a lot of short pieces of content that we’ve done that have ranked really well. But you really want to try to make sure that your content is at least 1000 words in length. Now don’t take that to the bank, there’s no algorithm that says it must be this much. But what we have seen and I’ve read a number of case studies that show that longer content just performs better.

The next thing you want to look at is your actual URL, so what the page title is called. So it could be yoursite.com/blog/ you know for this one it would be the website’s excellent user experience. Simple, straight, using the keywords, it’s not this super long string you maybe have seen some of those URLs that are just extremely long. When you keep them short they typically rank better. Again, it’s one of those things where we’ve seen case studies. We’ve also seen using keywords that can also help. I don’t think it’s just those things alone, it’s not like a have-to that’s going to automatically make you rank, but again you’re adding more content, you’re adding in more related terms that Google understands. It’s part of the whole package of what you’re doing here.

Now your metadata. We talked a little bit about titles before and how the title of your article can also end up being your title tag. You want to have your title tag with your keyword as close to the front as possible. You want to keep it under 60 characters if you can keep it closer to 55 it will be better because then you’re not going to get them cut off in search and it looks all awkward. Google doesn’t use an actual character limit, they use pixels but it’s still important if you make it a little bit shorter, you want to have as much context as you can, but short so it’s not cut off. It’s going to allow you to get your point across clearly.

Another thing is you want to write ad-worthy meta descriptions, and you want to use your keywords in there. One, the keywords are going to be emboldened in the search result, which can increase the click-through rate, and when you have a good ad-quality meta description it can also increase the click-through rate. If you increase and you have a good click-through rate, users find your content helpful and engaging, it’s going to show Google that your site is matching the user’s intent which is what they’re looking at. And that’s going to help you rank more. That’s going to help you rank higher, so meta descriptions are indirectly related to ranking. Very important to still pay attention to it.

The next and last piece of optimizing your post is your images. If you’ve got an image on your page, you want to use the Alt text in your images and be very descriptive. Now you should, as a best practice, have an accurate title as well, like what you actually call the image, the URL string in the image. And more importantly, you want to make sure you have a very descriptive Alt tag. Now Google, like we’ve said in a couple of videos back, a couple of months ago, is putting a lot of emphasis in search on the image size. It’s the second most used feature on Google.com after search, so they see people using it, and they’re investing in it.

Make sure that you’re using descriptions in your Alt text, that you’re not only looking at an image like we have right here and saying website blog image. That doesn’t tell us anything about the image. You want to do something more like, feature post image for “Is your website providing an excellent user experience?” blog, five young adults looking over user experience example. That’s a very long Alt tag, but the reality is you could put as many words as you want in there. But you want to make it very descriptive. That’s going to help the search engines understand what this image is, so if somebody queries an image like this, your image is going to pop up with the link to your page. You can get traffic from image searches, a very powerful search engine. So take the time to do that and create descriptive Alt text.

All right, so that’s really dealing with step three. Now moving over to step four. And this is using internal links in your content. A lot of people are afraid to use internal links in their content because they don’t want to send people away from the website. Now, I understand that feeling but the reality is especially if you’re a newer site or a site that’s trying to increase authority, Google might not know that you have authority on the topic. You could be a PhD, but if they never engage with you online, you don’t have an online presence, they don’t care like because they don’t know you.

So you want to make sure that you have a relevant connection to the field and what you’re talking about, when you have some cloud and visibility. One way you can do that is actually by linking to other authoritative sites, so when you make a statement about something you say, “We know that this is true and it’s been verified by this authoritative source,” and you give a link to that. The crawler will go and crawl that, “Yes, they’re saying the same thing, this guy must know what he’s talking about, we’ll give him a little bit more like way in authority because they’ve said something that we know to be true because this person said it.”

Now, instead of sending people, you can always have those pages open in a new window. Most CMSs allow you to set a link open a new window. But use links, use a couple internal links, not just to your own content but also some external links which are pushing people to an outside source. So you want to do both. You want to do internal links to your own content, relevant content, keeping them engaged and you want to do external links to authoritative sites outside of your own site that can help increase your authority and prove that you know what it is that you’re talking about.

Step five is think mobile. More people are searching on their mobile devices than their desktops. This is more in the B2C space. But B2B still needs to pay attention because more people are moving that way as well.  Google is prioritized around mobile now. They have the mobile index as the main index. They’ve also got the search index, the desktop index and they’re both working simultaneously but the mobile one is the main index now. Make sure that your site is mobile responsive at a minimum.

Now for blogs, I think using AMP is also a powerful thing to do. Now AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. If you’re using a CMS like HubSpot, it’s really as easy as clicking a button. AMP pages don’t always look as pretty, or they haven’t in the past. It’s getting a lot better today, there’s a lot more features coming to AMP which is allowing us to still do creative stuff, but making pages load fast. That’s the real key. People will look at crappy pages that work fast longer and be more engaged, than pretty pages that take too long to load. Because when something takes too long to load, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is, impatient people leave.

If it comes up, it may look junky or it may not look exactly like what we want it to, but it comes up fast and the content’s good, we tend to be happy with that. You can leverage AMP on HubSpot, you can do it on WordPress, just with WordPress. You know, you might be using a plug-in. Make sure that it doesn’t conflict with any other plug-ins. It’s kind of funny, but there’s sometimes these plug-ins that increase speed if they’re not working together. They can retroactively do things and make your site slower even though they’re speed plug-ins. It’s really weird, so WordPress is a great tool, just make sure the plug-ins you choose are working together, make sure that you have a minimum amount of plug-ins.

But you can leverage AMP, and just another thing overall is just doing less JavaScript on your site. That is going to help speed up your site as well. Speed’s the name of the game, especially when it comes to mobile. People don’t want to wait, they want to have their content now.

And the last thing you need to do is track your progress. So using Google Analytics and tying it in your search console, you can see what keywords are driving traffic. You can see what keywords have a better click through rate, what type of content’s converting, and this is going to allow you to make better decisions. When you know what types of content that your users like, it’s going to allow you to create more of that content. If you keep shooting in the dark, you’re never going to hit what you’re looking at. Using analytics to track your progress is just the smart way to go. It’s free if you use Google Analytics. There are other analytics platforms if you don’t use that one.

Google Analytics is a great platform with tons of information that allows you to make smart decisions about what to do and where to focus your energy. SEO is a long game, so don’t expect to win this thing quickly. Be consistent, take your time, this is something that I’ve been doing myself for our own business for quite some time. Consistently publishing content that we believe our users will find helpful and engaging. If you continue to do that and you optimize it, you will begin to see a lot more organic visibility.

Now, like I said, we are going to put the Slide Deck on SlideShare. We also have a PDF cheat sheet which you can download from our website (click the image below). It’s a great asset that you can use and leverage to get more out of your content marketing. If you’ve got any questions, please comment below. Until next time, Happy Marketing.

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