Even if you’re brand new to blogging, you are likely aware of how important search engine optimization – SEO – is to the success of your online venture. In fact, if you’re not working to improve your performances with search engines (read: Google), then you’re really missing out on an opportunity to grow your audience and reach more people with your blog.
When it comes to SEO, there are many factors that impact your performance. But the good news is that if you learn to develop the right approach from the beginning – during the planing stages of writing – then you can create and upload content that is poised for success.
Of course, getting to the top of page one not a guarantee; there is still a certain degree of uncertainty in the SEO world, and you need to be ready for a roller coaster. But if you keep the following things in mind when you sit down to write your next guest post, then you’re much more likely to rank well and drive traffic.
The first thing you need to keep in mind when writing a blog post you hope will rank well on search engines is user intent. In other words, what are people searching for?
But you need to go beyond just the literal keyword people are tying into their search bar. You need to get inside their head to try and figure out what it is they’re really looking for.
For example, try to determine if they are looking for background information, reviews and recommendations, advice, opinions, education, etc. Then, once you’ve determined the user’s true intent, create content around it.
Write an introduction that makes it abundantly clear that your article is the one that will most address the searcher’s query, and then make sure the headings you use also touch on the important points.
This will help reduce bounce rate (the stat that measures how many people ‘bounce’ of your page soon after landing on it) which is an indication to Google that you’ve written something that matches user intent, which will lead to better rankings and more traffic.
Of course, this might mean spending more time planning and organizing the article before you write, as determining user intent can at times be tricky. But this extra prep will make it much easier for you to create content that stands a much better chance of ranking well.
One of the keys to getting your content to rank, and to keep things near the top, is to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. This means positioning yourself as a trusted expert within a particular field.
When you’re writing, this means a few things. First, it means you need to have a good understanding of the topic you are writing about. If you are trying to make a point or convince someone to do something, then take into account any counter arguments and make sure to address them. Doing this will make you look much more knowledgeable and will boost your credibility.
On the other side, the worst thing you can do is skip over these arguments, as informed readers will think you’re hiding from something and will view you as less authoritative.
Another thing you want to be sure to do is source any and all claims you make, preferably with links. Backing up your work with credible links helps make your content stronger and more interactive. This means any stats, claims, theories, etc. need to be linked, not only to prove to your readers that what you’re saying is the truth, but also to signal to Google that you’ve written a piece of content that’s authoritative.
When writing with SEO objectives in mind, it’s sometimes too easy to get tunnel vision and begin writing too much for the computer algorithms that ultimately determine your ranking. And while Google is decidedly not human (we think), you need to make sure you’re writing with people in mind.
This means, first and foremost, that you’re making sure to not overdo your keyword density. Stuffing content with too many mentions of your target keyword will make the writing seem unnatural, which turns off readers, and it will also affect how Google sees your content.
You also want to make sure you are breaking up your content into short paragraphs and dividing it up using subheadings that feature your keyword or some variation of it that makes it very clear what each section is about.
How you break up the text on the page doesn’t have a direct impact on your SEO performance. Instead, it makes your posts much, much easier to read and consume, which will keep people from clicking away and will also keep them reading through the whole article, boosting your time on page stats and your overall search engine performance. For a good example on how to do this, check out this example.
It’s always important to remember that Google is most concerned about helping people find the information they need. And in most cases, this means providing people with the most in-depth content available; content that is going to answer all of their questions and leave them fully-informed about the topic at hand.
In general, Google measures this by looking at the length of your content – longer content usually means more in-depth. As a result, you should always be trying to write content that is longer than the other resources out there written about the same topic.
Of course, this shouldn’t be taken as an absolute. Writing an extra 500 words about a topic just because you want it to be longer can dilute your message and make your piece worse. But when you’re planning and writing, think about areas where you can add in more details as compared to your competition. Examples, explanations, analogies, anecdotes, etc. are all great ways to do this in an interesting and exciting way.
You may have heard more than once that the perfect blog post is between 800-1200 words, largely because people’s attention spans on the internet are so small. And while it’s true that you have to work hard to keep people reading, well-written, engaging content will suck people in no matter how long it is.
So, try to figure out ways to make your content more detailed and in-depth. You can always cut things out later if you find it’s too long, but this approach will help you write something that’s better than everything else out there and that has a much better chance of ranking.
If you’re just starting out with a blog and SEO, then long-tail keywords are going to be your best friend. These are essentially search queries that are made up of multiple words, usually more than three.
Overall search volume tends to be lower, but so does competition, which will make it easier for you to rank. And if you can rank for these, then it will be easier for you to go after more competitive keywords. Plus, ranking for lots of lower-volume long-tail keywords can help you rack up traffic and build readership, which you can then use to further promote your content and rank for even more popular/difficult terms.
To find long-tail keywords to target, you will want to use a keyword planning tool such as Google Adwords Keyword Planner, but there are other ways to find these out, and all you need to do is know how to sesrch for something on Google…
“People Also Ask”
When you search for a term on Google, have you noticed that a box appears somewhere in the search results that says “people also ask?” This is designed to help searchers uncover more information about the topic they searched for, but you as a writer can use it to find both long-tail keywords and also content inspiration.
To see if these “people also ask” searches are worth an entire article, do some research on their search volume. And if they’re not deserving of an entire article, then definitely plan to include references to these topics in the articles you are writing.
This will help you rank for more terms and also boost your relevance, both of which help increase search traffic.
Media, Media, Media
Lastly, Google loves media-rich content. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words. So, when you’re planing your content, make sure you’re thinking carefully about the images you’re going to include, and if necessary, consider even making some yourself (or hiring a designer to do it for you).
If possible, embed YouTube links and other video content. But if you do this, be aware that adding a ton of content will also slow down load times, which can have a detrimental impact on your rankings. Consider using a plugin such as Lazy Load, which only loads the images that fit onto the reader’s current screen. This allows you to use tons of media without worrying about hurting other ranking factors.
Write and Rank
A good SEO strategy is one that starts before you even sit down to write. You need to do quality research that informs you about your users and that helps you decide what and how much to write. But you also need to understand that the SEO world is still one where trial and error reign supreme. There’s no exact formula to make something rank, and so you need to be ready to try new things and test the results.
However, if you do this with a sound understanding of what usually works, then you will be able to create content that performs well and brings readers to your website, which, in the end, is what it’s all about.