Are you a blogger wondering how to tackle SEO? Are you tired of reading in-depth SEO articles and just want to know the basics of how to optimize blog posts for Google search?
Cool. This post is for you.
I’m not going to gussy this post up with a lot of words and wit. It’s a simple, straight-forward guide to making sure your posts are optimized for ranking in Google. Plus, there’s a free checklist, so let’s get started.
How to optimize blog posts for SEO
First, decide on your keywords
Your keywords should be the topic of your article. So, for example, in this article, the keywords are “how to optimize blog posts.”
Once you decide on your keyword phrase, do the following things.
Search your keyword in Google
First and foremost, make sure that the results from searching your keyword are similar to what you’re writing about. You want to make sure the content of your article matches the searcher’s intent.
Check out the articles that rank on page 1 so you know what Google thinks are the best articles on your subject. Aim to write a better post than anything on page 1.
At the bottom of page 1, you’ll see Google’s suggestions for searches related to your keyword. If they’re relevant, those are good terms to include in your post.
Here’s what I see when I search ‘how to optimize blog posts:’
If there is a list of questions related to your search, you might also answer those questions in your post, too. For example, these are the questions that come up for my keyword:
Use your keyword in your post
There is no magic number or formula (that I’m aware of) for exactly how to use your keywords in your post. You should use your exact keyword phrase a few times in your post, but always make sure it’s to use your keywords in the most natural way possible.
You should also do the following:
Put the keyword in your title
Create a click-worthy title that includes your keyword. Here are some tips for writing good titles:
- Use an odd number for list posts
- Use a superlative or descriptive word before your keyword (the best, the ultimate, the quickest, etc)
- Use a call to action in your title
- Be clear not cutesy
My friend, Brandon Gaille, has some more great tips for crafting great titles.
Use the keyword in your slug
Your slug is the part at the end of your domain that sends readers directly to a particular blog post. Make sure your permalink settings don’t include your date (learn how to check permalink settings) or any other information and then edit your slug.
In WordPress, your slug will default to your title when you’re starting a new blog post. If you don’t enter a title, it will auto-populate with numbers. Click on the edit button next to your permalink and try to make it short, easy to remember, and includes your keywords.
Use your keyword in headings
It’s nice to use headings to break up your text as well. In fact, if you’re like me, that’s how you read most blog posts. Scan the headings and then read what you find interesting.
Your title should be in H1 so there’s no need to add anymore H1s in your post, so make all your other headings H2 and maybe some H3 if you need to differentiate between them.
Use variations of your keyword throughout your post
Use your keyword a few times in your post, but don’t stuff them in in an unnatural way. Think of other ways people might search for your topic and sprinkle those words or phrases in where they fit.
These are known as semantically related keywords, and using them not only helps Google understand what your post is about but you’ll rank for those searches as well.
Google has become smart enough to recognize related words, and stuffing your keywords into your post unnaturally will only hurt you. It’s more natural to use different ways of saying the same thing.
A good tip is to use thesaurus.com to find similar words. You can also try googling some similar phrases to see if they are a good fit for your article.
Use your keyword in the ALT tags of your images
Make sure your images are relevant to your post so that you can include the keyword in the ALT tag. The ALT tag is used to describe your image for a person who can’t see the image or the purpose of your image.
A lot of bloggers use the ALT tag to fill in their Pinterest description, but this is no longer recommended as good practice. So your alt tag for a picture of cake might say: “slice of homemade chocolate layer cake on a white plate.”
But for your Pinterest pin you could write: “How to bake a chocolate cake – text overlaying image of a slice of homemade chocolate cake”
That way you get in your keywords and are still using the ALT tags correctly.
Include links in your post
When you’re a young blog, it’s a good idea to link out to other authority sites. Try to find sites that already have a high trustworthiness factor. A good way to do this is to choose a post that is ranking on the first page.
If Google is ranking them in the top 10, it’s a good sign they see these links as trustworthy so linking out to them makes your post seem more trustworthy.
CAUTION: Just make sure that the site you link out to is on a similar topic but not the same topic. You don’t want to link to another page that is trying to rank for the same keyword as your post.
You also want internal links – links to other posts on your site. All of your posts should link to at least one other post on your site. And don’t forget to go into your old posts and link to your new post as well.
Include a video if appropriate
Video is huge for reader engagement. People like to learn from watching videos, so when it’s appropriate, make sure to include one in your posts. It doesn’t have to be a video you make, it can be one you find on YouTube.
When you’re looking at YouTube videos, choose a video that has lots of views and thumbs up. And make sure to watch the whole thing so you know what you’re putting up on your website.
Whether you’re creating images in something like Stencil or simply adding your own or stock photos, it helps to break up the text with at least one image in your post.
Be sure to fill out the alt tag information to describe your image and include your keyword phrase. Look for opportunities to use your keyword and semantic keywords in your captions as well.
Edit your meta description
Your meta description is the little blurb that Google shows under your title in search results. If you don’t do anything, Google will use a snippet (usually your first few sentences) from your post to show to searchers. You may or may not want those to be the first impression in Google search.
You may choose to have an optimized description that includes your keyword and some incentive to get the reader to click. The easiest way to edit your meta description is to use the Yoast plugin.
Yoast is handy to remind you to do most of the things in this list, and they give you an easy way to edit your meta description. Simply click ‘Edit Snippet’ to change what’s displayed.
For whatever reason, sometimes Google will still choose something else to show in search results, but don’t skip this. They will still look to your meta description to determine what your post is about.
***Did you know that your website itself, your web pages, and your category pages also have a meta descriptions? Make sure you accurately fill this in to give Google more info about what your site is about.***
No follow your affiliate links
If you are including affiliate links in your post, you need to add “nofollow” and/or “sponsored” to tell Google not to follow that link or use that link for ranking.
You can just add the nofollow attribute after your link in HTML. It looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.your-affiliate-link.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Your text</a>
I do not nofollow all links, but in an attempt to save time, some bloggers will use a plugin that nofollows all external links. There’s potential negative SEO implications if you do, so an easy alternative is to use the “no-follow” plugin.
Proofread your post
Before you hit publish, preview your post for formatting, spelling/grammar, and make sure it’s easy to read on your site. There are some free tools that help you with proofreading that I highly recommend.
Share your post on social media
After you hit publish, make sure you share your post on Facebook, Pinterest, and any other social media platforms you use. Getting traffic to your post will help it move up the ranks faster. I like to make 3 pins for every post and schedule them to go out every few days.
I also use CoSchedule to go ahead and schedule Facebook shares for several weeks or months in advance.
Okay, now that your post is published, you should start working on getting links from other websites to your post. The first and easiest way to get a backlink to your new post is to go through your old posts and add them in.
You can get backlinks on other websites by sharing your post for roundups, emailing other bloggers and suggesting your post as a resource for one of their posts, responding to HARO requests, or just share epic content that other bloggers won’t be able to resist linking to.
There’s a whole science to getting backlinks, and it’s arguably the most effective way to move your ranks up in Google.
That’s the gist of what you need to do to optimize blog posts
The truth is optimizing your posts can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, but if you follow these suggestions you’ll be well set up for ranking in Google.
But it won’t happen right away. Sometimes it takes 4-6 months to see how your post will rank, although it can be sooner. Just keep sharing your post and looking for backlink opportunities.
Following up and improving your results
Check on your stats for your post every month. After 6 months, if you’re not happy with where your post is ranking you can go in and do some updating.
- If it’s on page 1, but not getting a lot of clicks, try changing your title or meta description
- If it’s not on page 1, look for opportunities to add content, answer more questions, make a video, etc
- If it’s ranking and doing well, make sure all the keywords your post is ranking for are specifically addressed within the post
Use your favorite keyword tool to keep track of your rankings and to watch your site grow.
So how about an easy SEO checklist for blog posts?
Sure, I have one of those. I use it in Google Sheets, and you’re welcome to make a copy for yourself.
Click here to see the checklist. It’s totally free – no strings attached.
If you’d like to join my mailing list, I’d love that. You’ll also get access to my editorial calendar in Google Sheets.