If you’re unsure of how the heck SEO works on your site, you’re not alone. SEO (short for search engine optimization) is simply a strategy to help your blog posts rank higher in search engine results. In addition to all the other stuff you need to do to optimize your site, you need to optimize every post, too. The anatomy of an SEO blog post is super formulaic. Here, I’ll explain the nuts and bolts of what you should do to optimize every post.
1. SEO Blog Post Title (in h1)
Your SEO blog post titles matter. How Much?
Enough to make or break your article. It could mean the difference between your article ending up on the first page of Google results or the ninth page.
It could also determine whether someone clicks on your post (and not one above or below yours).
First off, make sure your keyword is in your title. The closer to the beginning, the better.
But whatever you do, don’t sacrifice SEO for readability. Your title needs to make sense. Period. (But seriously, don’t put a period in your title).
Obviously, research your keywords before you get started to make sure you can even rank for them.
Format your title as h1 text. If you’re working in a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Squarespace, the platform will format this for you.
Otherwise, use the tag <h1> </h1> or manually format your headers by highlighting the text and choosing the appropriate formatting.
If you write in Word or Google Docs, you can even format in those programs and copy and paste your text into your CMS.
2. Intro Paragraphs That Matters
I find writing intro paragraphs (and conclusions) really really hard.
For one thing, they’re the first text that goes on the page (and the first info readers see. Yikes!).
That’s why I always write my intros last. After I get the rest of the article on the page, I know more about my topic.
Case in point: as I write this sentence, I have yet to write my intro.
Anatomy of an Intro Paragraph
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to intros. But here are a few I abide by that make my writing, articles and SEO blog posts better.
– Make your first sentence the best one in your article. I like mine to be short, punchy and to the point.
– Keep your intro to the point (don’t write a prologue to your article. Just dive right in! Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
– Include your keyword (or phrase) once in the first paragraph to tell Google what it’s about.
– Avoid overusing call to actions (CTA) like, “Read on to learn more.” Duh. What are you supposed to do? Play the harmonica to learn more?
3. Sub Headers (in h2)
When writing for the web especially, it’s important to chop up your article in small, digestible pieces.
People don’t want to read a giant wall of text. Sorry, no matter how compelling you think you are, you’re not. (This is a lesson I have learned time and time again. Just ask anyone on the wrong side of one of my long stories!)
Using subheaders (like the one above that says, ‘Sub Headers in h2’), makes the article look like 10 mini-articles in one.
You should format headers in h2 formatting and include your keyword at least once in h2 formatting.
Again, don’t sacrifice readability for search engine readability. There are sneaky ways to get your keywords in your post the appropriate number of times without keyword stuffing.
4. Strategically Placed Keywords
Include your keyword in your SEO blog post at least 10 percent of the time. If your article is 550 words, use your keyword five times. If your article is 1,000 words, use it 10 times (not including that time you used it in the title).
Using it less will help you get to the bottom of Google searches. Using it more looks spammy and will help you get to the bottom of Google searches.
5. Clear and Concise Text Between Headers
Your body text is all that stuff you write to expand on your headers. You’re readin’ it right now.
Make sure your text is clear and concise. Again, I like to use short, punchy sentences. Sometimes I add a few longer sentences. Often I throw in a few sentences with a variety of sentence structures. I only use word repetition with intention.
Always read your post out loud before hitting ‘Post!’ You’ll find all sorts of crazy stuff you never knew existed in your writing!
6. SEO Blog Post Photos
Photos are just as important for your readability and SEO as keywords. An SEO blog post without photos is like a picture book without pictures. It’s like peas without carrots. It’s like seeing more than three birds on a wire. It’s like mixed metaphors.
It’s just weird.
Always use at least one photo in your post (preferably at the beginning). Use your keyword/phrase in the alt text and as the name of the photo.
7. External Links to Similar Content
Help Google understand the meaning of your post by linking to other posts that are similar (or use similar keywords). If I’m writing a post about the importance of backlinking, I always link out to a few other reputable sources (.gov or .edu if you can find ’em!) to help search engines understand my content.
Search engines aren’t people. They don’t absorb info the same way we do. They need a little extra help in understanding what our SEO blog post is about. I always try to use the article of the link target in my anchor text to help out Google even more.
8. Internal Links
While you’re at it, link to other pages and SEO blog posts on your site. This keeps people happily browsing for minutes to hours to days. If you can suck someone into the matrix, you’re doing something right on your blog.
9. Meta Description
Don’t forget to change your SEO blog post’s meta description. That’s the little blurb that shows up in Google results telling potential clickers what your post is about (usually the first 160 characters of your post will show up if you don’t manually change it).
You can change this in Squarespace or download a plugin for WordPress (I use Yoast) to change this. Use your keyword/phrase once in the meta description.
10. SEO Formatted Slug
Finally (finally!), don’t forget to change your SEO Blog Post’s slug (the last bit of your URL). You can do this in Yoast or manually in WordPress or whatever CMS you’re using. Try to avoid stop words (a, the, an, or, etc.) in your slug. If you’re writing an article called “The Best Restaurants in Kentucky,” your slug should be: best-restaurants-kentucky (use your keyword without stop words).