Optimizing for search engines
One way to drive users to your posts is with search engine optimization, or SEO. When done effectively, SEO can land your blog posts on the first page of search engine results when people type in relevant search queries.
SEO can be a complex topic, but the good news is that there are a handful of things that you can easily do to improve your rankings.
Choose a single, specific search query to target
The best approach to SEO blog post writing is to keep it simple and limit each post to 1 specific search query. Otherwise, you risk not ranking highly in any of your target queries.
Imagine you work at an accounting firm and you’ve decided you want to attract personal trainers, hairdressers, and construction workers as clients. With this goal in mind, you’ve decided to write a blog post to help these professionals with their tax returns.
You could write a single post: “Tax return tips for personal trainers, hairdressers and construction workers,” and split it into relevant sections for each professional.
However, if you do that, you will be unlikely to rank for any of the following searches:
- “Tax return tips for personal trainers”
- “Tax return tips for hairdressers”
- “Tax return tips for construction workers”
If you want to rank for each of those queries, you should write a separate post for each profession.
The reason for this is pretty simple. Google and other search engines are primarily interested in returning the most relevant result for a user, based on the search query (or keywords) they’ve entered.
Optimize your post for your target search query
Once you’ve chosen a target search query for your blog post, your aim should be to offer the most complete answer to the query that you can. However, optimizing your blog post involves more than simply including keywords in the post.
Most blogging software platforms, like WordPress, will allow you to edit various elements of your blog that are important for SEO. Many platforms even allow you to edit posts that you’ve already published, so that you can apply SEO strategies to any posts you’ve written previously.
To illustrate this process, imagine that you work for a fictitious company called Taxrite and that you’re optimizing a blog post for the search query “Tax return tips for personal trainers.”
1. Include the search query in the URL of your blog post.
The URL should incorporate the keywords of your target search query and clearly tell readers what to expect on the page. For your post on tax return tips for personal trainers, your URL should be something like this: www.taxrite.com/blog/tax-return-tips-for-personal-trainers.
2. Include the search query in the title tag of your blog post.
The meta title tag is an HTML element which is displayed on the search engine result pages. Google has a limit on the length of the title tags that will display. This limit varies, but is typically 50-60 characters, including spaces.
Most sites elect to format their title tags in 1 of the following ways:
- Search Query | Business Name
- Search Query - Business Name
So for your tax return tips blog post, you could choose to format the title tag like this:
- Tax Return Tips for Personal Trainers | TaxRite
- Tax Return Tips for Personal Trainers - TaxRite
From a search perspective, it doesn’t matter whether you use a vertical line (sometimes called a pipe) or a dash to separate the search query from the business name. You can do whichever you feel looks best.
If you’d like to see how your title tag will be displayed by search engines, you can use this title tag preview tool.
3. Write a compelling meta description.
The meta description is another HTML element. It’s displayed underneath the meta title tag on search engine results pages. Meta descriptions do not impact search rankings directly, but a well-written meta description can entice a user to click on your post.
As with title tags, Google limits the number of characters that will display. A good guideline is to keep meta descriptions around 155-160 characters, including spaces.
Like your URL and meta title tag, meta descriptions should contain your target search query keywords and give potential readers a clear idea of what they will find in your post.
The meta description for your blog post about tax return tips for personal trainers could look like this:
Not sure what you can and can’t claim? For guidance on music, mileage, equipment, clothing, and more, check out our tax return tips for personal trainers.
4. Include the search query in a natural way within your post.
There’s no magic number of times that your target search query needs to appear in your post. Instead, focus on writing your post to best answer the query. If you do that, chances are you'll mention the query a number of times anyway. Don’t try to force additional mentions or keywords where they’re not necessary.
Another common mistake to avoid is dressing up your writing to appear more professional. To attract visitors and rank for relevant search queries, mirror the language your target readers would use.
5. Optimize your images.
If your blog post contains images, the alt-text is another opportunity to optimize for search engines. Alt-text helps both visually-impaired readers and search engines better understand what your images are depicting.
Most blogging content management systems offer the option to set alt-text when pictures are uploaded. When writing alt-text for your images, keep your search query keywords in mind but also make sure you’re adequately describing the images for readers who aren’t able to view them.
Some blog writers include words or phrases which aren’t related to the image, but instead include search queries they are hoping to target. For example, rather than describing an image, their alt-text might read: “How to optimize your small business blog posts, small business seo, small business blogging, social media for small business blogging.”
This is commonly known as keyword stuffing and isn’t as effective as you might think. Alt-text like this prevents people with visual impairments from understanding your images. Plus, it doesn’t actually improve your rankings or drive traffic. Writing simple, clear, and relevant alt-text is much more effective and accessible.
6. Include relevant links to other blog posts you’ve written.
Linking to other posts you’ve written makes it easy for readers to access more content that they might find useful, and drives more traffic towards your other pages. It’s also helpful for SEO. Search engines use the same links that users click in order to discover and rank more of your content.
Like keyword stuffing in alt-text, make sure not to overload your text with irrelevant links. When you include links where they make sense, you help your readers and your SEO practices at the same time.