Sep 25, 2023
Blog SEO: What It Is and How to Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines
Writing and publishing content is the key to starting a blog. However, in order to grow it, you need to attract more readers.
Implementing blog search engine optimization (SEO) best practices can help you increase organic search traffic, expand audience reach, and boost the blog’s ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
In this article, we will explain what blog SEO is, why it’s essential, and what you can do to achieve SEO success.
What Is Blog SEO?
Blog SEO is the practice of writing and optimizing blog content for a higher rank on search engines. This includes improving the site’s architecture, meta descriptions, page speed, and hyperlinks. Doing so will boost website performance, improve the user experience, and increase blog traffic.
Why Is Blog SEO Important
Studies show that the first organic result on Google Search gets a 43.32% clickthrough rate (CTR) on average, while the tenth position receives only 3.11%. What’s more, approximately 90% of users do not bother going past the first page of search results.
From these findings, it’s clear that improving blog SEO increases a site’s search engine visibility and helps attract new audiences.
Here are other crucial benefits of creating SEO-friendly content:
- Boost credibility. Producing well-researched, high-quality content that directly answers users’ queries will make it easier to build your blog’s authority.
- Improve the user experience. Ensuring a navigable and user-friendly website will boost the likelihood of visitors returning and recommending your blog to others.
- Reduce bounce rates. Create content that is valuable, engaging, and easy to understand, so readers stay on your blog page longer.
How to Optimize Your Blog for SEO
To help you improve blog ranking and boost search traffic, we’ll share the top 15 blog SEO tips, from planning out content to setting up custom error pages.
1. Conduct Keyword Research
Before turning a blog idea into actual content, conducting keyword research helps to set the foundation for your content strategy.
Writing an SEO-friendly blog post requires an understanding of what the target audience is looking for on search engines. This will help you target and highlight relevant keywords in your content.
People type in keywords to find answers online. For example, they might type “how to bake a cake.” If you optimize blog content for those exact target keywords, it is more likely to generate clicks.
Moreover, by conducting keyword research, you can gain insights into marketing and industry trends. This will help you generate relevant content with high traffic potential.
How to pick keywords that will generate traffic:
1. Determine your website’s niche and goals. Think about relevant topics for your blog and what you want to achieve with your content.
2. Brainstorm and make a list of seed keywords in that niche.
3. Use free keyword research tools to find more related keywords, and check metrics like search volume, keyword difficulty, and seasonality.
4. Remove keywords with little to no search volume from the list.
Here are some excellent free keyword research tools that are popular with SEO experts:
- Google Keyword Planner. Find out the number of searches for relevant keywords.
- Ahrefs’ Free Keyword Difficulty Checker. Measure how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword.
- Google Trends. Look at trending keywords over time, interest by region, and related queries or topics for a keyword.
It’s good to analyze competitor sites when conducting keyword research.
If you’re competing against established websites, consider focusing on long-tail keywords, which are specific keyword phrases targeting users with niche queries.
Unlike generic keywords, these tend to have a lower search volume and keyword difficulty. Ranking for these keywords is easier since there’s less competition.
Also, if you have a Google Ads account, check the pay-per-click rate for certain search terms. Those with higher rates are usually harder to rank in organic search.
2. Assign a Focus Keyword for Each Blog Post
After compiling the target keywords, select one focus keyword per blog post and center the content around it.
A focus keyword is the primary keyword your content will rank for on SERPs. So, when users type in that particular search term, they are able to find your blog.
Assigning a focus keyword to each blog post is crucial, as attempting to cover multiple keywords with different topics at once will only confuse search engines and readers.
In addition, blog posts with too many keywords risk having an unnatural flow, resulting in a negative user experience and possibly harming the site’s ranking.
To find the right focus keyword for a blog post, think about what search query is most relevant to the content. Then, analyze the target audience’s search intent. Failing to address this may cause users to look for competitors’ blog posts instead that better match their intent.
To check a keyword’s intent, simply search the keyword and determine whether the results are:
- Informational. Users want to learn more about a subject. For example, “what is SEO.”
- Navigational. Users want to find a specific website. For example, “Forbes magazine website.”
- Transactional. Users want to purchase a specific product or service. For example, “best fast web hosting.”
- Commercial. Users want to research a product before making a purchase. For example, “coffee machine benefits.”
Evaluate the types of pages you see on the top of Google search results. Are they mostly product pages, informational blog posts, or videos?
These all indicate what Google assumes the search intent of a query is. Use this information to choose the correct blog post format for each focus keyword.
3. Include Your Keyword in The Title
The blog post title, or the H1 tag, is the largest text and the first element users will see on your page. As such, it should quickly explain what the content is about.
Placing your focus keyword in the blog post and page title can boost your site’s ranking. It assists search engine crawlers in quickly determining the post’s topic, which speeds up indexing.
As a result, when users search for the query, Google will flag your content as relevant and display it on search results.
Having a clear post title also manages readers’ expectations and shows them how the content will address their search intent. Avoid clickbait phrases that don’t relate to the content, as these will confuse search engines and can harm your site’s ranking.
To optimize your blog posts further, don’t overlook the subheadings. In addition to dividing sections, H2 and H3 tags are excellent places to include target keywords while avoiding keyword stuffing.
A good heading is anything that’s educational and evokes curiosity, like a how-to and step-by-step. I would also look at what’s ranking on search results to get an idea of what headlines people like and what direction you should go.
4. Write a Captivating Meta Title and Description
With many competitor sites creating content around the same topic, it’s crucial to write a compelling meta title and meta description to stand out on Google Search and attract clicks.
It’s not just users – search engines read them to determine a page’s relevancy to a search query before ranking it accordingly. The meta description and meta title are metadata in the HTML that provide context to every post.
In contrast to the page title, the title tag is included in the <head> section of the HTML. While the page title only appears on the web page itself, the title tag is displayed on search results and browser tabs.
On the other hand, the meta description presents a short summary of the web page. It informs users what they will get by clicking on the page.
Search engines automatically generate a meta description snippet from the first 160 characters of any blog post. However, we recommend writing your own meta description to improve blog SEO.
Keep the following factors in mind when adding a meta description and meta title:
- Be as specific and concise as possible.
- Stick to a 50-60 character limit for the meta title and 50-160 characters for the meta description. Use tools like MRS Digital to check if your meta tags have reached optimal lengths.
- Include the focus keyword.
- Add a call-to-action phrase like “learn more.”
- Explain the benefits of reading the blog post.
- Ensure it’s relevant to the content.
- Make it unique.
If you run a WordPress site, consider using a WordPress SEO plugin like YoastSEO. It comes with built-in tools to help users generate SEO-friendly meta descriptions and titles.
5. Use Evergreen URLs
Permalinks are clean, readable URLs that stay the same even when you update the page with fresh content. In addition to supporting a clearer site structure, a permalink helps the content sustain its ranking over time.
Since search engines assess URLs to determine whether a web page is relevant to a search query, your URL should always reflect the blog content and be evergreen.
Not using an evergreen URL requires you to set a new one whenever adding or deleting material from the page. This will result in a loss of traffic and engagement that the previous URL had gained. This includes likes, shares, bookmarks, and inbound links.
An evergreen permalink ensures relevancy as it doesn’t include specific information like dates, author names, or list items.
For example, our article “Top 18 eCommerce Trends You Should Know in 2023” includes both the number of items and the year in the title. To avoid altering the URL each time either factor changes, we use this permalink:
Most blogging platforms like WordPress automatically generate URLs according to the blog title and post. However, it’s better to create your own custom permalink to ensure it’s evergreen.
Make sure to keep them short and straightforward to help search engines understand your post in relation to the search query. Use simple terms and include the main keyword.
When creating a permalink, it’s ideal to have the post name right after your domain name. Also, avoid adding random strings and numbers to have an SEO-friendly URL.
6. Optimize for Mobile Devices
Since around 58% of website traffic worldwide comes from mobile devices, ensuring your blog is responsive is a must.
Making your site mobile-friendly includes providing seamless navigation and properly displaying text, buttons, and images on a smaller screen. We recommend utilizing a responsive design that automatically adjusts blog content and other site elements for different devices.
Using a responsive design eases browsing and facilitates sharing across devices. This is ideal since there’s no need to have two separate URLs for mobile and desktop versions. That way, you don’t have to split backlinks between two URLs, which can cause a lower ranking.
Having a mobile-friendly site also means your blog will likely rank higher since Google prioritizes responsive websites.
To check whether your blog is mobile-responsive, simply insert the blog’s URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
7. Optimize Images
While adding graphics enhances a blog’s visual appearance and breaks up long paragraphs, poorly-optimized images can cause a bad user experience. Large images also take up more space on your site, increasing server usage and slowing down loading time.
That’s why optimizing images is a key factor in improving blog SEO. This involves reducing image sizes without compromising its quality. Doing so boosts the website’s performance and improves its chances of getting a higher ranking on SERPs.
Here are a few image optimization techniques to try:
- Select the appropriate file format. For example, use a JPG file for photos and PNG or SVG file formats for logos and illustrations.
- Compress the image. Image compression reduces bandwidth usage, improving the page loading speed.
- Utilize image caching. Store image files locally on a proxy server or in the browser cache for quicker fetching.
- Add a descriptive alt text. In addition to helping search engines crawl and index your blog, alt texts help screen readers describe images to visually impaired users. This improves the site’s accessibility and user experience.
When creating alt texts for your blog’s images, be descriptive and specific. Avoid filler phrases such as “image of…,” stick to a maximum of 125 characters, and include target keywords whenever possible.
We also recommend using tools like Cloudinary to analyze how your existing image size, quality, and format affect site performance.
8. Reduce Your Bounce Rate
The bounce rate is an indicator of user engagement on your site, and it’s calculated by the number of visitors who leave after visiting one page. It’s also an indicator of how relevant your site’s content is for users, significantly affecting SEO.
Minimizing bounce rates is crucial to improving your blog’s ranking and ultimately gaining more search engine traffic.
A good bounce rate is between 26% to 40%, whereas a high bounce rate ranges from 56% to 70%. To measure your blog’s bounce rate, take a look at its Google Analytics data.
In addition, here are some questions to keep in mind to reduce your blog’s bounce rate:
- Does the content answer the search intent?
- Is the web design visually appealing?
- Is the text readable?
- Is the blog easy to navigate?
- Does the site load quickly?
- Is it responsive on different devices?
- Is it free from errors?
If you answer yes to these questions, then you’re on the right track to ensuring the best user experience and lowering bounce rates. If not, audit your site and identify the elements that can improve to encourage more user engagement.
9. Aim for Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are short content summaries that appear at the top of search results. Google pulls snippets from web pages to provide quick answers to search queries. Websites that can capture featured snippets stand out on search results and are seen as an authority.
Featured snippets come in different forms, such as paragraph, video, and list snippets.
When creating content, identify opportunities for a featured snippet. Target question-based keywords like “what,” “who,” “where,” and “how to” to increase the chances of getting a featured snippet. Then, include the search query in the header if possible.
Ensure the content is helpful, informative, and directly addresses the search intent. Keep your answers between 50-60 words and introduce them as early as possible. This will help crawler bots identify it faster, making them more likely to grab it for a featured snippet.
Another tip is to format your content accordingly. This involves dividing it into bullet points, tables, or clear steps. For listicles, summarizing the items can increase the chances of capturing a snippet.
Also, consider breaking up paragraphs with relevant visuals, as Google often highlights images and video snippets that are tagged with relevant keywords.
10. Add Schema Markup
Schema markup is structured data that provides additional context to your blog posts. It helps search engines better understand what the content is about, making it easier to crawl and index.
For example, if you run a food blog, adding a recipe schema to a blog post about cooking spaghetti can enhance how it appears on search results. Google will then display rich results that include ratings, estimated cooking time, reviews, and other related recipes.
In addition to recipes, other types of schema markup include local business data, book reviews, movie listings, events, and product pages.
When adding schema markup to posts and pages, you can either do it manually or using a plugin.
To test your existing page’s eligibility for rich results, you can use Google’s Rich Results Test tool.
11. Implement an Internal Linking Strategy
Link building is a key factor in SEO. It involves acquiring backlinks from other websites to increase organic traffic and site authority.
Besides building quality backlinks, you should have an effective internal linking strategy that can help maximize your blog’s potential.
Internal links are links to other blog posts or different pages within your own site. It’s useful for creating a hierarchy of information and giving context to your posts.
Having a network of internal links also helps search engines better understand the site structure and eases navigation for users.
For example, let’s say you run a travel blog and want to write a travel destination listicle. If you have previously written an in-depth blog post about a country in that listicle, make sure to link back to that page. That way, users can discover more information about the travel destination and stay on the site longer.
When linking to other pages, use an anchor text that gives some context to users about what they will find. A good anchor text should either be an exact or partial match of the target page’s URL.
For example, “WordPress SEO tips” is the exact match for the URL /tutorials/wordpress-seo-tips.
On the other hand, a partial match can be a variation of that keyword, such as “SEO tips” or “WordPress SEO.”
Note that you should avoid generic anchor texts such as “click here” or “check out this link.” This type of anchor text risks confusing users and search engines as they provide no context to the target page.
If I’m working on a new website or optimizing an existing website, I will start with the internal links and overall website structure.
I usually use Google Sheets to write down all the possible categories and pages the website might have and try to plan what categories it might need. This way, I know what internal link structure to choose.
For example, if I’m working on a website that I know will have three main categories, then I would most likely include their category names in my permalinks to create silos.
12. Update Existing Content
Updating existing content is equally important as generating new ones to maintain audience engagement and interest.
In contrast to new blog posts, reworked content already has some degree of authority, making them easier to rank higher on SERPs.
Moreover, revamping outdated content is also an excellent opportunity to optimize the blog’s on-page SEO. For example, changing the formatting, narrowing the search intent, adding internal and external links, and inserting custom visuals to enhance each blog post.
When evaluating your blog content, check all the statistics and product information to ensure they are still relevant. Review blog posts that include industry trends or updates, as they are most likely to change. Then, remove outdated information and revise the content accordingly.
Keep in mind that it’s good to maintain the same URL despite updating the content. If you want to change your URL to an evergreen one, remember to create redirects to prevent error pages since these can damage the blog’s ranking.
Typically, there’s no need to update more than once a month if you want to see if the changes helped your rankings or not.
However, if the topic is continually changing, then you can update it once a week, even multiple times a day.
For example, if you’re writing about stocks, your page may change a hundred times a day due to fluctuating stock prices.
13. Track Website Performance Using a Tool
When creating an effective blog SEO strategy, tracking website performance is an important step. Maintaining a fast-loading blog is crucial to its success, as 53% of mobile users will abandon a site that loads for more than three seconds.
Apart from that, Google has long considered page speed a ranking factor. Between two identical content, the site with a faster page speed will likely rank higher.
Simply copy and paste your site’s URL to get a web performance and core web vitals analysis. The tool also identifies website issues and provides actionable recommendations for website optimization.
By monitoring how well the blog performs, you can identify areas for improvement and fix issues accordingly.
14. Create a Sitemap and Robots.txt File
To help search engine crawlers index your blog, there are two elements it should have.
The first is a sitemap, which lists all the web pages within a domain. It provides information about the pages’ location, update frequency, and relevancy to other pages. By reading the sitemap, search engines can quickly understand the site’s structure.
On the other hand, a robots.txt file instructs search engine bots regarding which URLs should or should not be crawled. This file prevents unnecessary pages like resource files or media attachment pages from being indexed, minimizing the crawler’s requests to the server.
Generating a sitemap and robots.txt file can be done manually with any text editor. However, for blogs with more than ten URLs, we recommend using an SEO plugin to automate and streamline the whole process.
All in One SEO and Yoast SEO are popular WordPress SEO plugins that enable users to create sitemaps and edit their robots.txt files with ease.
Once your sitemap and robots.txt files are ready, remember to submit them to Google Search Console for indexing.
15. Set Up Custom 404 Pages
Every now and then, users might mistype your website URL. Since the page requested doesn’t exist, your domain will redirect them to a 404 error page.
Automatically, the browser will serve users a default HTML error page, which is visually unappealing and not very user-friendly. These error pages also don’t help visitors navigate back to the website homepage, making them unlikely to return.
To mitigate lost traffic, it’s best to set up a custom 404 error page for your blog. That way, you can design the error page in a way that creates a clear message explaining why the requested page cannot be found.
When creating a custom 404 page, provide relevant links to similar pages to help users continue their session and find what they are looking for. This increases the likelihood of users staying on your site, which reduces the bounce rate.
TripAdvisor’s custom 404 error page is a good example. In addition to providing alternative internal links to re-engage users back into the sales funnel, it uses a quirky message to explain why the page isn’t available – all while maintaining its branding.
Since gaining higher search rankings is key to attracting more readers, putting in the effort to boost your blog SEO is necessary.
To optimize blog content to rank higher on SERPs, site owners should create high-quality blog posts, build a good user experience, and ensure optimal website performance.
In this article about blog SEO tips, you’ve learned that it’s good to ensure content relevancy by doing keyword research and assigning a focus keyword to each new blog post. Moreover, write an engaging title tag and meta description to prompt users to click on your site.
Then, speed up site indexing by creating a sitemap and robots.txt file. Additionally, implement link-building strategies to improve the site’s architecture. Furthermore, don’t forget to optimize your blog for mobile devices since they generate more than half of website traffic today.
While you don’t have to implement all these practices right away, having an actionable SEO checklist and plan will give you the tools to grow your blog traffic.