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Search Engine Optimization may seem confusing at first, but once you understand the basics, it’s really not so bad. Here are 10 tips that all bloggers can use – regardless of platform – to write SEO-friendly blog posts.
If you’re new to blogging, search engine optimization, or SEO, is a term that’s going to come up constantly. In a nutshell, search engine optimization is the art of creating blog posts not only so humans can understand what you’re writing about, but so that machines (aka search engines) can, too. When you write SEO-friendly blog posts, you increase your chances of receiving organic traffic from Google. Organic traffic is the crème de la crème of blog traffic, as it’s targeted for the post you have written and isn’t dependent on promotion or social media. If you keep Google (and the other search engines) happy, that traffic can be yours for years to come.
Whenever bloggers ask me how they can get more traffic to their blogs, I always recommend focusing on SEO. There’s no downside to optimizing your blog posts for search engines. The one thing you must understand about SEO, however, is that it is a long-term plan. SEO isn’t going to drive traffic to your blog tomorrow. When done right, SEO is a strategy that will eventually start sending regular traffic to your blog.
If you’re brand new to SEO, here are some totally unscary things you should do in your blog posts – regardless of which platform you’re using (i.e. no plugins are necessary) – to start incorporating SEO techniques into your blog.
Tips for Writing SEO-Friendly Blog Posts
1. Have a clear topic in mind when you begin your post
Ideally, each post you write should have an overarching theme. Well, when I say “each post,” I mean each post that you want to rank in the search engines. Sometimes you’ll have posts that aren’t intended to rank, and that’s OK. But, if you’re doing any sort of long-form informational post that you think will be useful to the public, you should have a clear topic in mind and you should try to stay on topic as much as possible.
2. Try to cover all facets of a post
As you’re writing a blog post, it may help you to jot down some notes before beginning. Or, as my second-grade teacher used to say, do some hamburger brainstorming. Google has been very upfront about the fact that they reward posts that cover a topic in-depth and help answer questions that people may have so it will be worthwhile for you to really dig down deep before you start writing.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to write about why you think the University of Michigan is the best university in the world. (Hey, this just so happens to be my alma mater! Go Blue!) In addition to your opinion that Ann Arbor is a cool place to go to college and The Michigan Daily is the best student newspaper in the country (well, that’s a fact), you could back this up by talking about how Michigan has the winningest football team in history, and the largest college football stadium in the country. You could write about how President John F. Kennedy announced the launch of the Peace Corps from the steps of the Michigan Union, or how another president, Gerald Ford, is counted among the school’s alumni base, which just so happens to be one of the largest alumni bases in the country. (Have I convinced you to go there yet?!) My point here is that there’s always more you can say about a topic. Dig deep and think about all questions and arguments people could bring to your post and try to answer them before you hit publish.
3. Write a minimum of 300 words
It seems silly to recommend that you write a minimum of 300 words because that is a joke. That’s the absolute bare minimum you should write. But, I’m not sure there are many – or any – posts that rank on the first page of Google search results that have just 300 words. In fact, studies have shown that Google prefers posts averaging 2,000 words.
When writing blog posts that you want to rank in search engines, write as much as possible without adding a bunch of random filler. As mentioned in the step above, the best way to write more is to truly cover all areas of a topic and not just one little piece of it. If you’re stuck, think like a journalist and try to answer the 5 W’s and an H: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.
4. Use headers
Headers, like H1, H2, and H3 help give form and hierarchy to your post, which is something that is beneficial to your readers AND the search engines.
5. Add multimedia elements
While multimedia elements – like Youtube videos – CAN add substance to your post, the reason they help with SEO is that they get people to stay on your page longer. People staying on your page longer means you will have a lower bounce rate, which is a piece of data you’ll find in Google Analytics. A low bounce rate is always better. Overall, the longer someone is visiting the page, the more important Google thinks your page is and the better you can rank.
6. Use nofollow links
Over the years, Google has punished sites for using follow links when they’re not appropriate and they require that you use nofollow links in certain situations. “Nofollow” is a term you’re going to hear frequently, which may have you asking, “What is a nofollow link?”
A nofollow link tells Google that you don’t want to pass any goodness along to that link, for whatever reason. A follow link means it’s a link you recommend. Affiliate links and other paid links (for instance, in sponsored posts) should ALWAYS be nofollow, else you and the other site can be dinged by Google. (There are a lot of scamming companies on the internet who will try to trick you into giving them a follow link for payment. Don’t fall for it!)
As long as someone hasn’t paid for the link on your site, you can make it a regular follow link if you want. For instance, if you’re linking to a recipe a blogger put together that inspired you to create your own dish, go ahead and show them some love with a follow link.
On just about any blogging platform, as long as you haven’t installed a plugin, the links you share will AUTOMATICALLY be follow links. If you’re using WordPress, you can change links to nofollow by using a plugin like Ultimate Nofollow.
How to manually add a nofollow tag:
Regardless of your blogging platform, you can follow these steps to turn follow links into nofollow links.
- Enter your text on your site like you normally would, and add the link.
- Switch to HTML view.
- Your text and link should look something like this: <a href=”https://ohsheblogs.com”>Oh She Blogs </a>
- To make that link into a nofollow link, just add the following <a rel=”nofollow” href=https://ohsheblogs.com”Oh She Blogs</a>
- Switch back to your visual editor
7. Make your photos smaller
The size of your photos doesn’t really matter, except that your photos should ideally be large enough to look nice when saved to social media sites, especially Pinterest. (According to Pinterest, the best pins should have a 2:3 ratio, or something like 600 x 900. The size I frequently see suggested, and what I use myself, is 735 x 1102.)
When people say make your photos smaller, they’re actually talking about compressing your images so they take up less space on your site.
The reason this is important is that large images will bog your site down and it will load slowly. Google penalizes slow-loading sites. You want your site to be as fast as possible and one of the best ways to keep your site healthy in this regard is to optimize your images.
So, how do you optimize blog images?
If you’re working on a new site, you can optimize your images before uploading them using a site like Compressor. Run your photos through there, save the compressed file, and upload that to your site instead of the original file.
If your site’s older, however, and you need to optimize photos you’ve already posted, I recommend ShortPixel. I use it to optimize the photos on this site. I am typically able to compress my photos an average of 63 percent using this tool! They have a free plan, but even the paid plans are super affordable.
8. Make your posts shareable
If you want people to share your post across social media, you need to make it easy for them. One way to do this is to add social media buttons to your site. I use Social Warfare, which I love, but there are tons of different options out there.
Aside from making it possible for people to physically share your posts, you need to give them content to share. Make sure at least one image in your post is maximized for Pinterest sharing. Canva is a very popular tool for making images, as is PicMonkey, though my personal favorite at the moment is Stencil. Any of these sites will make it easy for you to create good-looking graphics, even if you aren’t a designer.
Others sharing your posts on social media can obviously send traffic your way, but in terms of SEO, these types of links are also cues to the search engines that your post is relevant.
9. Fill in your social media account profiles
Creating backlinks to your site is extremely important for SEO. The best links you can get are follow links from other websites, but you can also create backlinks yourself by setting up social media accounts for your blog and filling in the profile section of each site. These links will, unfortunately, be nofollow links, but a link is a link!
10. Link to other content you’ve written
One of the easiest things you can do to make your posts SEO-friendly is to link to other related content you have written. For instance, as this post is about SEO, I might link back to my post about projects to tackle during the summer traffic slump, where I mentioned that bloggers should take time during the summer to learn more about SEO. Just like that, I’ve created a link to an old post. Or perhaps my post introducing my course, Introduction to SEO for bloggers.
Google likes to see that your posts are connected, so whenever possible, provide links to your old content. And, be sure to go back through your archives from time-to-time to add links to newer content.
SEO is easier than you think
I promise you that optimizing your posts for search engines does NOT mean you need to adjust your voice or the way you write. In fact, I write everything first and then optimize my posts. Learning the basics of SEO will make it possible, though, for you to write for both audiences: Humans and the spiders that crawl the entire internet looking for content.
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