If you wanted to write for yourself, you could keep a journal. You blog because you want other people to connect with what you have to say, or as a way to promote your website.
Either way, you need other people to find you. Search engine optimization is one of the best tactics to help readers can find your blog posts.
You likely already know the SEO basics – to include keywords in your titles and headings, customize your URLs, and fill out your meta description. (If not, start with our Beginner’s Guide to SEO, then head back here later).
But to truly stand out in the competitive world of online content, you need to move toward more advanced SEO tips. Here are a few important advanced SEO tips to start including in your blogging strategy.
1. Make Keyword Research Part of Your Planning.
Regular bloggers know how important it is to plan a calendar out in advance. If you don’t take the time to plan out topics and deadlines for yourself, you’ll have a hard time staying consistent in your publishing.
Each time you sit down to plan out your calendar for the coming weeks, spend time doing keyword research to see what topics your audience is thinking about, and the language they use when looking for information on those topics.
There are a number of useful tools you can use for this. Google’s Keyword Planner is free and uses the data the company collects on what people are searching for in the most popular search engine in the world.
It supplies information on roughly how often people search for specific keyword terms, so you can gauge how valuable and competitive they are. And it also generates suggestions of keywords similar to the ones you provide, so you can build out your list with more relevant topics.
You can also find phrases people commonly use by paying attention to the similar searches Google provides in the “People also ask” and “Searches related to” sections on the search engine results page.
2. Focus on Long-Tail Keyword Opportunities.
Obviously, you’d love to rank for the general keywords that broadly describe what you do on your blog.
If you provide health advice, then showing up when people search “health advice” would mean so many people find you. But if you do a search for that term, you’ll notice you’re competing with some serious bigwigs. Your blog probably isn’t going to unseat Harvard Health, WebMD, and the Mayo Clinic for those top spots.
But when you think about it, a lot of the people searching for health advice aren’t going to use that sort of general term – they’re looking for specific information, like “best exercises for high cholesterol” or “foods to improve digestion.”
These more detailed, specific searches are called long-tail keywords and for the vast majority of websites seeking to improve their SEO, they’re the most important keywords to focus on targeting in your efforts. They’re less competitive, so you have a better chance of showing up on page one and actually grabbing some of the traffic for that term.
3. Do SERP Research for Every Topic You Blog About.
Not all search engine results pages (SERPs) look the same. With the rise in rich results, some searches produce a simple list of links, some include answer boxes up top, some have product ads at the top of the results page, and others have a map of local results that dominate the page.
Knowing what the search results page looks like for the term you’re targeting is crucial for knowing how best to optimize your blog posts to both land the best spots on the page, and make sure your content stands out once you do.
And it’s how you learn which web pages are ranking now. If you want to win in the rankings for a keyword, it helps to know who to beat. Spend time reading the posts that rank in the top 5 now, and pay attention to what they do right. Can you spot any trends in terms of length, page title, their images and headings, and what questions they address?
After reviewing the top pages ranking now, you’ll have a solid idea of what Google thinks makes a good result for this term. Use that in figuring out how to structure your own blog post, and what to include in it.
4. Optimize for Rich Results When Relevant.
If your SERP research reveals keywords that do bring up rich results, the approach you take when optimizing your content should be based on the specific type of results that win that page. In some cases, that will mean using schema markup to help your content stand out in the main list of results, in other cases it will mean optimizing your blog post to aim for the featured snippet.
Either way, you have to know what you’re targeting in order to know how to take the best approach to achieve it.
5. Make Your Content Comprehensive.
The SEO community has long debated the topic of length. Is longer content better for SEO?
While a lot of research has been performed to analyze the question (the average post on page one has 1,447 words, says Backlinko), the real answer is that it depends.
Trying to pad a post to make it longer won’t help you rank, because readers won’t like it and Google cares what readers think. Writing a post that’s too short to answer your topic in a meaningful way will also fail, since your readers won’t get the information they need.
Without stressing too much over word count, the better goal is to aim to make sure every post you publish takes a comprehensive approach to covering the subject.
In the early stages of working on your post, do some digging to put together a list of questions and keywords related to your topic. Ask yourself: which of these would a person searching this term want to know about? Based on the answer to that question, decide which items on your list merit a section in your piece.
Making the posts you write cover more territory accomplishes a couple things:
- They’ll be more competitive if they serve as a better answer to the search term than the current top results.
- Your post could rank for multiple keywords. Ahrefs found that, on average, posts that rank #1 for one keyword will also rank for around 1,000 others.
Writing posts that are comprehensive often means posts get pretty long, so it’s equally important that you use subheadings to divide your posts into sections that make them easier to skim. And using relevant keywords in those subheadings gives Google more information about what your page is about, which also helps with rankings.
6. Optimize Your Images for SEO.
Blogs can’t be all about text. Every blog post you publish should include at least one image, and sometimes more.
For people better with words than visuals, that can be a challenge. But it’s important that you not only take time to find good images for your blog, but that you also use them as an opportunity to do further search engine optimization on your page.
Every image you include in a blog post gives you extra opportunities to add your keyword to the page. You can use the alt text, the image file name, and possibly the caption text (if you can do so naturally and in a way useful to visitors) to insert uses of your keyword onto the page. That’s a few more ways to signal to Google what the page is about.
7. Guest Post on Relevant Blogs.
The hardest part of SEO is getting other websites to link back to yours.
One of the best ways for bloggers to build links back to their blog is to create valuable content for related websites. It can require a lot of work (you already know good content takes work), but it gives you a way to reach a new audience and improve your website’s SEO authority.
Identify a few blogs that cover topics similar to or complementary to what you write about and find out if they accept guest posts. Then take some time to get familiar with the types of posts they publish and topics that are most popular with their readers, before coming up with a blog post idea to pitch and write for them.
Be prepared to get some rejections, particularly if you’re targeting blogs that have a huge readership. But every guest post you land will introduce your blog to a new audience and provide you with linking opportunities back to your own blog. Just make sure you don’t overdo it so your post doesn’t look spammy – stick with one or two relevant links back.
8. Add Internal Links to Your Old Posts.
Internal links aren’t as valuable as external ones, but they’re still an important SEO tactic.
Most bloggers know by now to look for opportunities to link back to old posts when you’re writing new ones, but how often do you think to revisit your old posts to look for opportunities to link to new posts that have been published since?
Now and then, search your website for the main keywords you had in mind for your recent posts. Anywhere in old posts where you used those keywords or similar ones, add a link to the newer posts with the keyword as anchor text. It’s a pretty simple step that can make a real difference.
9. Update Old Posts to Keep Them Current.
Creating new content regularly takes a lot of work. But you can make the work you’ve already done go further by periodically reviewing your blog to find old posts that are good, but may now be outdated.
Beef these up with updated information and valuable tips or insights you missed the first time around. This is especially useful to do for posts that rank okay, but not great. So anything you’re on page 2 or 3 for is worth improving upon so you can try to make it good enough for page one.
10. Try Out Different Content Formats.
While blogging is primarily associated with writing, it’s a format that is much more flexible than that. You can include images, videos, infographics, and podcasts on a blog if you want.
Branching out into new content types may be just the thing to help your blog reach a new audience or connect with your current audience in new ways. Experiment a bit to see how you like working with new formats and whether or not they result in more shares, more links back to your posts, or more engagement from your audience. Any content format that does is worth creating more of.
11. Network Online.
This one may seem out of place at first glance. What does networking have to do with blogging and SEO? As already mentioned, earning backlinks is the hardest part of SEO. And other websites are more likely to link back to your blog posts if they know who you are.
So while this is definitely one of those tactics that takes time and patience to net any visible results (kind of like SEO itself), it can make a difference over time. Seek out online communities in your space. These may take the form of Slack communities, Twitter chats, Facebook groups or professional organizations that hold virtual meetups. Start attending regularly and getting to know the people in the community.
The relationships you form will make link building easier. But they’ll also be valuable on their own as relationships. Forming positive connections with other people is an all-around win.
12. Feature Influencers in Your Blog Posts.
As with guest posts, finding ways to collaborate with influencers is a useful way to expose your blog to a wider audience. That could mean doing an interview with them, featuring a quote from them, pointing out an example of something they do well in a blog post, or referring back to advice they provided on their site (with a link).
Oh, and this serves as another way to grow your network online. Once you feature an influencer, you’ve started a relationship with them. Work to maintain it by continuing to interact with them over time.
A lot of the factors that contribute to SEO depend on people finding and reading your content to begin with. No one will link back to a post without discovering it first. And Google pays attention to metrics like clicks and time on page that directly relate to people seeing and reading your blog posts.
In order to make any headway in these areas, you need to drive attention to your blog post once it’s up. That means doing promotion.
Share your blog post across your social media platforms. Start building an email list in order to promote each new post in emails. Driving relevant traffic to your blog posts is an important early step in building up the page’s SEO authority.
14. Learn From Your Blog Analytics.
No blogger can guess from day one which posts and topics will resonate most with your audience. You won’t know what people like and respond to until it’s already out there.
But once you’ve built up a library of content, you can gain valuable information about who your audience is and what they like by paying attention to your analytics.
If you haven’t already, set up Google Analytics for your website now. Check in regularly to find out who’s visiting your website (demographically speaking), which posts are getting the most traffic, where the traffic comes from, and which keywords search visitors are using to find you. Analyze what you learn, and put that information to use in choosing your future blog topics and promotion strategies.
Advance Your SEO With These 14 Tips for Bloggers
Blogging is one of the best things anyone can do to improve SEO, but simply having a blog and publishing posts isn’t enough to keep you competitive. Creating regular content that’s always good is hard enough not to make sure that content gets seen.
By doing a little extra work to make the effort you’re putting in go further, you can help your audience find you more easily and ensure your content does its job.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.