How to Blog Effectively for High Keyword Rankings

by | Sep 22, 2018

There are two players in SEO – the person who’s asking the question and the search engine that’s looking for the answer. The best blogs will make both of them sit up and take notice.

Blogs have been around for about 20 years, but their purpose and value online have changed tremendously. They were initially called weblogs – shortened to blog – because they were more of an online diary or journal.  Now they are anything an author wants them to be.

With the rise of free blogging platforms, like WordPress.com, or Blogger, Tumblr, it’s estimated there are over 440 million blogs online in 2018.

Blogs and SEO

Blogs are content – relevant, good quality content.  Search engines index online content looking for the most credible and relevant responses to the question posed by a user.  Makes sense then that a blog on your website helps search engines locate your page.

There are ways to optimize your blog and give Google a little wink.

Brief SEO Overview

Search engine optimization (SEO) is based on aligning your site to the way search engine’s algorithm responds to a query.  When you Google something, the algorithm instantly runs through all the millions of website to pull up the list of which sites have the most relevant answer. The list of links are collectively called SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages.)

FACT: 75% of searchers never make it past the first page of SERPs.

The algorithms look for a number of variables, but to keep this focused on content, we’re talking mainly about checking for keywords.

FACT: If you’re new to the party, the chances of claiming a top spot on a generic keyword – i.e. camping supplies – is virtually impossible. A newcomer ain’t gonna knock off Bass Pro Shops anytime soon.

We searched for “camping supplies”  and the top three organic search returns came back with pages named “camping gear.” Related words – gear for supplies – are a way to improve your SEO without appearing to stuff keywords into your site.

Cabela’s – in the number one spot – added an SEO title to their page that included “camping supplies” – probably why they were first.  All three had meta data descriptions underneath their listing. Meta data (explained further below) is your friend.

Using Key Words

Not only are the Google bots looking for key words, they are looking at how you use them and prioritize them. Back in the day, websites would cram key words into a site’s meta data (a HUGE no-no these days.) But here’s why they did it – because what displays in the browser, what users see, is not what the bots see. They see code.

Images

Just so you know, bots cannot see an image. That beautiful picture on your home page of a fire in front of tent next to a lake under the stars? Nope, they got nothing.  Every image on your site needs alt-text – tent camping under the stars. Now the bots perk right up.

Alt-text, captions, image descriptions – they are all an opportunity to include content just for the crawlers. You still shouldn’t cram, but describe the image strategically.  Alt text is also used to help people who are visually disabled understand the intent of the image.

Meta Data

Meta data is “data about data.” (Totally helpful.) Basically, it’s information embedded in the code of a document, image or web page.  The type we’re interested in is <description>. It’s a snippet of text that describes your site, using between 50 and 300 characters.

If you have an SEO plugin, like Yoast, on your site, you can edit the meta data on each of your pages, using a key word or related keywords. When that page is pulled up in SERPs, the snippet will show just like in the results above.

Header Tags

Another way to make the bots take you more seriously? How you prioritize your key words.  The content on websites is categorized similar to the way a Microsoft Word document is organized.  Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 – when you use a key word in a heading, it adds credibility.

Typically Heading 1 is used only once for your page title.  Headings 2 and 3 will be used throughout the body content.  Though this is helpful to the bots, it’s also helpful to your readers.  Headings help organize your content and break up your page.

Here’s the deal:

  • The second page of Google is a graveyard
  • Google handles roughly 65% of all searches
  • You’re not gonna knock the big boys off page one on a key word search
  • You’re going to need a strategy.

So, let’s get on with it.

SEO Blog Strategy

Let’s talk about the blog itself for a minute or two.  The first component in your strategy is good quality, relevant content.  Bots may not be human but they’re not stupid either. It’s not like you can throw up a few key word headers and bunch of badly written, who-cares content and think they don’t notice.

They will notice by ignoring your site.  Not exactly the point of having a blog to help with SEO.

Creating Good Content

First of all, any professional writer will tell you – spell check is your friend. But before you start writing (or hire someone to write for you) you need to think about what your customers want to hear.  Then you need to combine that with what you want your customers to hear.

If you can create a good marriage between the two?  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Be Authentic

The tone of your message is also a decision. On our site – you can build websites, we decided to take a conversational approach.  A different site with a different audience might need more formal language and style.

Think about how you talk to your customers face to face – chances are good that’s the style you want to replicate online.  There are too many generic posts, blandly written – no unique voice – to seduce an algorithm.  Embody your brand with key words – not the other way around.

The more authentic you are – the more you build brand loyalty, subscribers, fans and followers.

Good Content is Shareable Content

The relevance of social media in SEO is constantly shifting, at least at Google. But when it comes to increasing traffic – a shared link, post or page can introduce your site to a bunch of new people.

Though Google’s algorithm doesn’t include social media ranking (likes, followers, fans, etc.), according SEO guru Neal Patel – that doesn’t mean social media isn’t important. (He also notes that Bing does include social standing in their algorithm, so there’s that.)

Social Media for Search

As more and more people rely on social media for relevant content – don’t forget they are searching for it on site. Bypassing traditional search engines to use Twitter or Facebook’s search capabilities can be a game-changer for content visibility.

There are plugins that add share buttons to your WordPress website.  Once you put them up, make sure you click them to see how the tweet or post displays. You want to make sure it will get pulled up if someone’s search for the topic.  Tweak if need be.

Longtail Organic Search

Remember earlier we said you were pretty much screwed on Google for a keyword like camping supplies? Here’s the way to get around that – using a longtail search as your key word.

Before we go any further – anyone who tells you they will get you to the number one spot on the first page of Google in a week or a month? It’s pure bull. Building your presence online is just building any other part of your business – it takes time.

This might be a long tail search for camping supplies: where to camp under the stars. “Where to camp under the stars” is a good page title and you can easily weave the types of supplies you sell into some beautiful camping spots.

Remember to use your key words in your headers.  Camping Gear as heading 2 for the items you want to promote and Camping Supplies as heading 3 for items that complement the gear in heading 2.

Size Matters

We are constantly being told that the attention span of humans is getting shorter. But crawlers and bots? No so much. The longer the post, the more they like it.

And the more they like it, the higher it ranks in the SERPs.

For a blog post to have any search value it needs to be, at minimum, 500 words – emphasis on minimum.  Long form articles are sometimes 4x that – and almost always get ranked much higher than an equally credible source with a minimum word count post.

Raising your SEO Ranking

There is more to your blog’s SEO than just content – including alt-text and heading tags. One of the biggest elements the algorithm looks at is links. The sites that your blog links to and more importantly – the sites that links back to it.

Search bots aren’t just looking for relevant content – they are looking for credible sources to provide it.  Certain sites have more authority (credibility) than others.  WebMd.com has an entirely different ranking than an online pharmacy promising a wonder drug that cures cancer.

It’s an extreme example, but makes it easier to understand.  You want to link to credible sites, but you really want credible sites to link to you.

Standardize Your Business Listings

Even if you are just putting up your first website, your company may already be listed online. If you’ve had multiple locations and various phone numbers – that can diminish your credibility online. There are a bunch of tools to audit your company on multiple registries.

Make sure the address and phone number on your website is correct, then let them do their thing to get your listings squared away.

Building Backlinks

No credible site will sell you a backlink. Repeat – no credible site will sell you a backlink. Does that stop less-than-credible companies from trying to sell you backlinks? Unfortunately not.

Do not buy backlinks. Do not work with an “SEO professional” who recommends you do so.

Start building by getting yourself online with Google My Business. You can create your own Google Business page with a phone number, address and description. Make sure all your social media accounts (including LinkedIn ) have a link to the site.

Add your website to free registries where relevant – trade associations, memberships in civic organizations, and support for non-profit organizations. If you have partners you work with or suppliers, link to their site and ask them to link to yours.

If you use a press release service, make sure you include a link in the release. If you’re mentioned in a news article, ask them if they can include a link to your site. (Even if they don’t – you should link to the article.

The goal is to start to create a nice little network of online “references” to your blog’s (and site’s) authority and credibility.

Internal Links

When you create a blog post in WordPress, the application automatically creates links to the PREVIOUS and NEXT posts.  In the sidebar, hopefully you’ve used the Recent Posts widget to add a menu and an option to subscribe too.

When you set up internal links, the bots follow them. It helps them to understand what you consider to be relevant content. It’s basically lighting path for them to crawl.  But don’t just rely on the standard options.  Use internal links that add valuable information for the reader.

For example, we recently wrote a post on how to set up subscriptions on your website.  The bold text in the first paragraph assumes you already know how to do that, but what if you don’t? That’s where we could add a link to this article.

Don’t over do it.  Really think about what’s going to be helpful for the person interested enough to be reading your post.

Let’s Recap

Blogs are a great way to keep your website fresh, increase traffic and share your ideas, projects and expertise with people online

Always remember:

  • Good content is more than key words
  • Be authentic
  • Use longtail search terms
  • Never buy backlinks
  • Add value by with internal links

A well-written blog will help your site’s SEO and improve your ranking in the SERPs. But manage expectations and don’t try to scam the machine – Google’s reach is long and it’s wrath is mighty.

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