The impact of blogging in the business world has been nothing short of revolutionary. Gone are the days when you had to rely solely on traditional media channels for advertising such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines, direct-mail, and even flyers to promote your small business and build out your brand.

Today, business owners have the option to create content that engages directly with their customers. Through blogging, these owners can now write articles that add to the usefulness of the product or service they sell. Owners can enhance their customer’s experience with their product and can educate their customers about news and developments in their industry that can affect them.

In order to reach customers with your blog, however, requires that attention be paid to the best practices outlined by search engines like Google to give you the greatest chance at ranking highly on a search engine results page. This is SEO Blogging, and, in this article, I will show you how to optimize your blog for search engines.

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Keywords

If there is one topic that most people know about SEO it’s keywords. There is such an abundance of information out there on the topic that it can seem, at times, like the factor that matters most when it comes to determining your page rank.

The truth is, ranking for keywords is very difficult especially if there’s a considerable amount of competition for the keywords. It’s better to take a more balanced approach to keywords as part of a larger overall SEO strategy.

So, what is a more balanced approach to keywords? Your first step should always be researching the keywords most commonly associated with the topic of your blog. There are many options when it comes to keyword research tools. Two of the most powerful paid tools that I would recommend are Ahrefs and Moz Keyword Explorer. To truly unlock the full potential of both tools, however, you will need to sign up for their monthly paid subscription services.

Another option is Google Keyword Planner. While not as insightful as Moz or Ahrefs, it is still a useful way to get ideas for potential keywords associated with your topic of choice. You will notice very quickly that the most desirable keywords are also the most competitive. This is where that balanced approach comes in handy. Rather than trying to stuff as many applicable keywords as you can as meta tags to your article, which Google will just penalize anyways, you should use these keywords to derive their long-tail equivalents.

I wrote an article on this very topic a while back that you can see (here). Author Katie Pritchard shares an interesting insight, “50% of search queries are four words or longer”. With that in mind, it is important to note that long-tail keywords narrow the focus of the search criteria. While not having as large an appeal as their short-tail counterparts, searches involving long-tail keywords are more likely to bring readership to your blog that intends to engage specifically with your topic of choice, thus reducing bounce rate and likely resulting in a greater amount of time spent on your article, and, hopefully, your site.

Remember, regardless of the keyword strategy you choose to take, it is critical that you include at least 1-2 keywords in your “Title” tag to help both readers and search engines determine the purpose of your blog.

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Mobile-Friendly (Responsive) Blogs

As of April 21, 2015, Google updated its ranking algorithm to identify sites that are more mobile-friendly and sites that are not. Sites that make viewing easier for readers on tablets and phones will be ranked more highly than those that do not.

This seems like such an obvious point it’s almost not worth mentioning, but you would be shocked how many blogs I come across that are nearly unreadable on a mobile device. With the ever-increasing importance of tablet and mobile devices in our everyday lives, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would ignore this consideration on purpose. The truth is, however, that some bloggers are so focused on content that it might simply have slipped their attention.

Many paid and free themes available to people creating their own sites have mobile and tablet responsiveness built-in automatically. What you may not know, though, is that this isn’t always a guarantee that your site is optimized for mobile.

An example of this is that some sites use pop-up ads where the button to close the ad is really obvious on a desktop computer, but due to an inattention paid to the site’s mobile counterpart, this close button might not only be difficult to find, it might be downright invisible.

If your blog suffers this specific issue, know that the result is going to be a 100% bounce rate from your page or article. If a reader is unable to read your article due to an ad being in the way that they cannot close, why would they choose to stay on that page or your site for that matter?

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Meta Descriptions

Imagine that a person is searching for keywords you are targeting in your blog post and they come across your article in a results page. What the search engine displays as the result explaining your article is the meta description. You can influence, to some degree, what this snippet shows in the results page.

Using your targeted long-tail and short-tail keywords in your meta description not only helps your overall SEO making your article more visible, by extension, it also increases the likelihood that users searching your keywords will be able to find content in your article that is relevant to their search.

The key to this strategy is to make sure that this snippet isn’t created with the sole intent to appeal to search engines for ranking purposes but to truly and accurately give the searcher information to help them determine whether or not your article satisfies the purpose of their search. The efforts you make in this regard will be rewarded over and over as blog articles can exist forever, and with the proper meta descriptions, readers are sure to find your content for years to come.

Links

In the next two sections, I will go over what I believe to be two of the most important factors that determine the success of your SEO efforts. The first is links. Imagine that you have gone through the SEO checklist thoroughly and still you can’t find yourself in any search engine results page no matter how deep you are digging. The most likely suspect that will crack this case wide open is links, and more specifically, backlinks.

I like to think of backlinks as being synonymous with authority and to search engines, like Google and Bing, it is! The bottom line is this, for search engines to be effective at delivering the right type of content that users will find matching their search criteria, it is paramount that those search engines are able to rank content that most closely matches said criteria.

 Let’s use an example. If you needed a contractor to do remodeling at your residence, you would most likely search the web for contractors in your area. Now imagine that the results in your search didn’t take authority into account. You could be searching for hours and be no closer to finding the right contractor for your job because there could be thousands of contractors in your area that all claim to perform identical services right? The only way that you could discern quality would be based on reputation such as reviews, star ratings, and who else recommends them. Through backlinks, search engines have done this research for you.

By ranking sites based upon what professionals within the field and customers alike consider to be the most knowledgeable contractors in your area, search engines have essentially narrowed that search based upon their perceived level of expertise as it pertains to your search.

Having reputable and professional blogs link back to your blog or an article you created is critical for search engines to determine your level of expertise in the subjects you blog about. In the same vein, it is important to link out to external sources in your blog as well. Think of it as citing sources from other professionals or experts within your field. Perhaps, you just want to reference back to an article that you think your readers would also find interesting based on the subject of your article. That’s yet another way that you can increase the usefulness of your articles to your readers.

“Having reputable and professional blogs link back to your blog or an article you created is critical for search engines to determine your level of expertise in the subjects you blog about”.

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So far, we have covered backlinks, but there is another side to this coin…internal links. As I will speak about later in this article, content is king! If you are a fastidious blogger who has taken the time and care to produce content that your readers will find useful and insightful but each of your articles are stand-alone pieces that never reference each other, you are essentially stranding each article on an island by themselves. My advice…throw your articles a life preserver in the form of internal links.

If you have published articles that expand on one of the topics you are currently writing, or that your readers might find interesting based on the current article’s topic, link to those articles. Not only is it a foundational component of on-page SEO, if done correctly, but it will also likely increase the amount of time a user stays on your site.

Content

This is the other factor I believe to be most critical in determining the success of your SEO efforts. Content is what you choose to write about and how you choose to write about it (style). One of the most difficult parts of blogging for SEO, is figuring out whether the topic you want to cover is one that others will also find interesting or helpful.

A good starting point when choosing a blog article is to input your topic into a Google search. Put a space after the topic in the search field and see what options Google suggests to complete your query. A lot of these results are going to be question-based. This is a great way to put your finger on the pulse of topics that are intriguing to potential readers and could conceivably provide an answer to questions potential readers have regarding your topic of choice.

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One of the most difficult aspects of blogging is the quality of the content itself. You can take all the right steps to set yourself up for success and still fail. As a writer, having feedback on your articles prior to publishing them is key. Having contacts with others in the industry you choose to write about can be critical. These contacts are great resources to “peer-review” your articles. They can suggest changes you can make in order to make your articles more readable or even intriguing by presenting ideas you might not have considered.

It’s also important to have a good support network of friends outside of the industry that can read your articles for clarity and quality. Make sure to choose someone that will be honest with you about your articles. The point is that you need a critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your article so that you perfect it before you publish. Having a set of eyes on your article by a person outside of your industry can be helpful as they can be a somewhat representative cross-section for the average consumer.

Last, but not least, DO YOUR RESEARCH! If you truly care about the topics you are writing about, reading pieces written by others on the topic should be a no-brainer. The care and attention you pay to this practice will help to build trust in your readers as they know that you have taken the time to truly understand the topic and it will show in the authoritativeness with which your voice comes through.

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Does Blogging Improve SEO?

The short answer is yes, but a more accurate answer is maybe. Why maybe? Well there are a lot of factors, as mentioned above, that come into play when determining the success your efforts will have in terms of SEO.

One that we have only skimmed till now is appeal. Do the topics you choose to write about interest large groups of people, or do they narrowly target such a niche audience that even if it were the most successful blog on your particular topic you would maybe have a total readership of 20 people. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t still write about these topics, but you must temper your expectations on the effect this will have on SEO if there just aren’t many people interested in reading about your topic.

For others, you might choose topics that have a very broad appeal. However, expect a lot of competition for the attention of those readers as there will be thousands of articles out there essentially covering the same topics. Again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also write about these topics, but rather consider writing a unique perspective on these topics of choice.

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One final point here is that maybe the industry or business you choose to blog about doesn’t lend itself easily to topics that really interest your average person. In these instances, you should consider taking an out-of-the-box approach to your blog articles. A great example of this is in Matt Secrist’s article he wrote for Search Engine Journal, “5 Ways a Blog Can Help Your Business Right Now”. In this article, Matt gives a great industry example for restaurant blogging that perfectly captures this point.

In summation, we have only scratched the surface of blogging for SEO. I plan to write more in-depth articles related to this topic in the coming months so stay tuned. In the meantime, know that while blogging doesn’t guarantee an improvement in your search rankings, if done correctly it can greatly improve your chances. By providing content that is captivating and intriguing to potential customers, you are setting yourself up as a destination site for others that are interested in topics related to your business or industry. If you follow the best practices laid out in this article regarding SEO for your blog, you give your articles the best chance of being found by prospective customers. And that can pay dividends for years to come.

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