- Did you know that 90.63% of web pages get zero traffic from Google? (ahrefs) With such a staggering statistic, businesses are continually searching for ways to be part of the minority that get organic search traffic.
- Blogging is a popular way to get more website traffic and convert visitors to customers, but in such a competitive landscape you can't just click the publish button and expect results.
- In this article, we delve into 7 best practices to write SEO-friendly blogs that will help drive traffic and convert leads for your business for years to come.
So you’ve been blogging (or you’re looking to start).
Why? Because you want more website traffic or you want to help convert more of your website visitors to customers. Or both.
It’s a great plan. In fact, there are studies to support those objectives.
Hubspot, for example, found that blogging leads to 55% more website visitors.
And DemandMetric found that companies with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don't blog.
So the decision to blog is sound. But before you start writing, I urge you to step away from your keyboard. If you want to get results, it’s not that easy.
Consider that ahrefs looked at every web page in its index (more than 1 billion pages) and found that a staggering 90.63% of pages get zero traffic from Google. That’s right, ZERO.
And 5.29% of them get 10 visits per month or less.
It begs the question – what do you have to do to be in the 4.08% of pages that get more than 10 monthly visits from Google?
7 Must-Know SEO Best Practices for Blog Posts
Here are my 7 tips to write SEO-friendly blogs:
- Identify your topic and your objectives
- Double down on your research with Google
- Prepare your brief
- Write, then rewrite (or get your work proofread)
- Optimise and publish
- Promote your post
- Audit your content
1. Identify your topic and your objectives
Don’t just write what comes to your mind first. Consider these questions instead:
- What is your audience looking for?
- Can you convince them that they have a problem and need a solution?
- Can you help them decide what they need?
Then you should do due diligence with some keyword research.
You’ll need to use some tools to help you. A great free option is Keywords Everywhere. It’s a browser plugin that shows you keyword research as you search on Google. Simply enter what you think your audience will use to identify:
- How often people search on average each month
- How difficult it will be to rank prominently
Keywords Everywhere will also show you related keywords to help you better understand other search queries so your content can answer a broader search intent.
Ubersuggest is another tool that offers your first three searches for free. Further searches require you to sign up for a paid plan, but it will give you a lot more data.
No matter which way you go, you should be looking for a topic or search term that has a minimum 50+ searches each month but isn’t too competitive.
Once you’ve nailed your topic and target search term, make sure you’re clear what your objective is with your blog post.
- Is it to get your readers to subscribe to your newsletter?
- Is it to convert them via a contact form?
Either way, know how you will measure this objective. In both these instances, one of the simplest methods is to track users who visit the post and then the specific ‘thanks for subscribing/contacting’ page. These things are easy to do with Google Analytics Goals.
2. Double down on your research with Google
You’ve identified a search query that has volume and isn’t too competitive – one that you believe your audience will be searching for and that suits your objectives. Now search for it in Google.
Google ranks the top-performing posts/pages because it believes they best answer the searcher’s intent, so you don’t want to stray too far away from these results while ultimately looking to publish a more valuable asset.
There are a few things you should look for and identity to help you prepare your brief (the next step):
- Do the top pages/posts have common subheadings or address common queries?
- What’s the average word count?
- Have they all been published in the last 12 months? This will indicate if Google believes valuable content needs to be fresh.
Beyond looking at your competition, have a look at the features Google is showing you and learn from them:
- Is there a featured snippet at the top of the page?
This is a prominent box with or without an image and likely to contain a short paragraph of around 30 words or perhaps a list. Try and emulate this content in your post.
- Is there a ‘People Also Ask’ section?
If so, look at these questions and make sure you address them in your post.
- Do likewise for ‘Searches related to ?’ section which you’ll find at the bottom of the page.
- Use the ‘autosuggest’ feature. Start typing in your search term and make a note of some related queries Google suggests. Include those topics in your blog post too.
3. Prepare your brief
Yes, even if it’s you that’s writing the post.
It’s one thing coming up with the topic and understanding some of the related queries, but you should also prepare a brief like you would for another writer. Just to make sure that you stay on track. This is perhaps the most important step in the process and it includes:
- Segmenting the queries you want to address from your research and from what you know of your audience’s interests.
- Being clear on your structure (flow and subheadings)
- Subheadings are crucial to your user experience because your readers will probably skim your post and read the parts most relevant for them
- Deciding what media you’ll use. Make sure it supports your content
- Identifying authoritative sources that you could link to as a reference.
4. Write, then rewrite (or get your work proofread)
‘Your first draft is always sh*&.’
While there’s some debate as to who first said this, it’s often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. If it was, then we should take note.
Keeping in mind that you’re doing all of this so you can get more website traffic and generate leads, is it really worth gambling on your first draft? Do you think the 4.08% are publishing their first drafts?
Go back over your first draft and write it again (or at the very least, pay someone to proofread your writing).
5. Optimise and publish
To optimise your post there are tasks to complete before and after hitting the publish button, including:
a) Adding meta titles and descriptions
If you’re using WordPress, then you should use Yoast SEO. It makes adding meta titles and descriptions really easy. Essentially this info is what we ask Google to use as the title and description in their search results. It’s what will encourage or discourage your audience from clicking on your result or going to your competitors'. Make your meta titles and descriptions are compelling.
b) Adding headings
I touched on the structure of your post earlier when I talked about subheadings. When Google crawls your web page, it needs to understand your post’s structure, too. Your main heading should be a <h1>, while your subheadings should be <h2> and so on.
c) Using image alt tags
In the past, Google relied on image alt tags to understand what was in images. It’s less reliant on these tags now, but they still add critical accessibility information for some users, so be sure to include them for your images.
d) Optimising your images
Make sure your images are no bigger than you need them to be and compress them using free tools such as TinyPNG.com. Optimisation should improve your page speed, user experience and rankings (that’s the theory).
e) Including internal links
Demonstrate the importance of your new post by adding contextual links from important pages on your site. Think about including your home and services pages, as well as other relevant blog posts on your site.
6. Promote your post
Had enough yet? No, your job is still not done. You should start promoting your content.
We can’t be sure of the influence on Google of such activity, but if you get your post in front of more people, it’s more likely to be searched, more likely to attract links and both of these will have an impact on your search performance.
It’s a no-brainer to use your social channels to promote your post first. Then if you have an email database and a newsletter, share it there too. You might even look to boost your post on your socials.
Beyond that, where is your audience? Where do they spend time? For example, do they jump onto forums to ask questions of the community? If they do, jump in, be helpful and share your link. The same goes for Facebook groups.
If you want to get really serious, look for other articles from authoritative sites where it could make sense for them to reference your new post. Then email them and ask them if they will.
7. Audit your content
While other steps might be more critical, this is the step where you have a real opportunity to improve on your competitors’ efforts because they’re not likely to be going this far.
Let’s say every 12 months you audit your blog (and by that I mean all of your posts).
I encourage you to place each of your blog posts into one of four buckets:
- Good organic traffic: Converts well
This is what we aim for. How can you leverage these posts further? Is it worth adding links to the posts from your service pages?
- Good organic traffic: Doesn’t convert
Look at the pages in this category and start testing new ways to convert them. Can you add better calls to action? Would adding any social proof to these posts help?
- Poor organic traffic: Converts well
You’re onto something with these posts, but they need work. First, identify if the information they contain is up to date or still relevant. If it isn’t, go through the research phase again and see if you can update and optimise. Then promote these posts all over again.
- Poor organic traffic: Doesn’t convert
These posts simply aren’t working. If you strongly believe these posts contain topics that your users could find valuable, then go through the process again. But if you’re not convinced of the value of any posts, then delete them and redirect their URLs to other related posts on your site that convert well.
Don’t just hold onto deadwood posts because you think too much time and effort went into them to delete them. They may in fact be hurting your search performance. Many SEO professionals have documented greater results when they’ve deleted low-value pages and posts.
These posts can also be a distraction from the high-converting posts on your blog. Your users may miss those posts because you’ve clogged your blog up with low-converting posts.
The Big Picture
The big picture with blogging is to understand that everyone is doing it now, so you can’t just hit publish on any old piece of content and expect results. Do your homework and make the most of the time and effort you invest in blogging.
If you do it well, you’ll create a suite of posts that continue to drive traffic and convert leads for your business for years to come.
Thanks for reading. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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