Knowing how to write a good blog post for SEO is a vital skill for marketing your business.
You can write all the good, useful content you want, but it’s not likely to improve your online visibility and bring you more clients or customers if nobody can find it.
Knowing how to write a blog post for the modern reader is key. Or rather, the modern “skimmer.” People tend to scan subheadings, skipping points they already know in favor of gaining the one nugget of wisdom they don’t.
Follow these guidelines to create powerhouse posts that increase traffic.
What Is SEO content writing?
Let’s Start with what SEO Content Writing Is Not
- It’s not “tricking” search engines into displaying content that doesn’t deserve to be displayed.
- It’s not writing a post just because it might help you rank for a keyword.
- It’s not about keyword “stuffing.”
Now, Let’s Talk About What SEO Content Writing Is
SEO content writing is all about delivering great content and then structuring it in a way that lets people find it. Sometimes this means you’re building your piece around the keywords rather than writing it from top to bottom the way you might write most things.
It can also mean letting keywords inspire you, i.e., by giving you subheadings you wouldn’t have thought of, or by showing you what’s on your customers’ or clients’ minds. It’s an opportunity to give them exactly what they want and then place it in front of them at the exact moment they’re looking for it.
Don’t let yourself overcomplicate it or mystify it. Be patient with yourself. It gets easier with time.
Write for Your Audience
The most important question to ask yourself is always whether this piece will truly help your customers. If it won’t, go back to the drawing board and generate some ideas which will truly help your audience.
Before you put pen to paper it’s a good idea to sit down and come up with a buyer persona. This isn’t rocket science…just think about the two to five types of people who do business with you every day.
Identify a few key points about your audience:
- Their values.
- Their problems and pain points.
- Their common questions.
Your content should reference or address one of those three key points.
Not sure where to start? Sit down with your sales team. They get the same 20 questions every single day. Those are the 20 burning questions your customers need to know about.
Are you the sales team? Keep a notebook by the phone and jot down what people ask about.
Think about the problems your customers face every day. Think about emerging trends in your industry or your customer demographic’s industry.
Think about all the corners your competitors are cutting, the ones you refuse to cut. Explain why you refuse to cut them and how you refuse to cut them. Consider all the ways customers could make their own lives easier if they only knew X, Y, or Z before calling you. Think about the mistakes they make and the headaches they cause.
All of this is prime fodder for creating blog posts that matter.
How Do You Use Keywords in a Blog Post?
Here are 11 steps to making the absolute best use of keywords in your post. Note that even keywords with multiple words are still called keywords, though you might hear them called keyword phrases as well.
1. Generate Your Possible Keyword List
Here are some tools you might use for keyword research:
- Google Keyword Planner (if you’re a Google Ads customer)
- Answer the Public
- Google Suggest
- Google’s People Also Ask results
2. Sort Your Keyword List
Remove any keywords that don’t accurately reflect what you do, sell, or are trying to convey in your post.
Prioritize your list based on the importance of the keyword to your topic and its search volume
3. Choose Your Focus Keyword
This is the keyword that best represents the topic at hand.
4. Include Your Focus Keyword in the Title
Make it easy for people and search engines to know exactly what your content is about. Use the keyword exactly as written (though see #10 for exceptions).
5. Keep Track of the Keywords You’ve Used
Copy and paste your keyword list at the top of the document. As you write, highlight each keyword you use in your content and make a tick mark next to the keyword in the list at the top of the document.
Make sure to use the keyword exactly (see #10 for exceptions).
Here’s the keyword list generated for this post using Google’s results in People Also Ask. Each one that I was able to use has an X mark next to it. I got all but the last one!
- how to write a good blog post for seo – X
- how to write seo friendly blog posts – X
- how do I write SEO friendly content? – X
- how do you use keywords in a blog post? – X
- how long should blog posts be for SEO? – X
- what is SEO content writing? – X
- what is a good blog length?
6. Use Your Keyword in the First Sentence
If narratively possible, include the focus keyword in the first sentence of the first paragraph. This gives search engines a clear idea of what your page is about immediately.
Sometimes it might not be possible to do this simply because it creates a bad “lede,” or “hook.” You only have a few seconds to generate interest, so if it comes down to the difference between writing a strong opener and writing a keyword-focused one, write the strong opening every time and get your keyword into the next sentence.
7. Use Each Keyword at Least Once
Do your best to use each keyword on the list. Try to use higher-volume keywords more than once (if you have Google Keyword Planner or another paid tool data), and in subheadings like H2 and H3.
8. Use Keywords in A Natural Way
Never try to shoehorn them into places where they don’t fit.
9. Use Synonyms
Use synonyms even if they didn’t come up in your research!
They create richer text and provide an even stronger SEO benefit.
10. Add Location Keywords
These are the state, city, or neighborhood you do your work in.
11. Sparingly Modify Keywords
If you get a “bad grammar” keyword, it’s okay to use prepositions or their good grammar alternative. Google is getting better at understanding that the bad grammar version and the good grammar versions are the same word or phrase.
12. Write Clearly and Descriptively
Search engines exist to help people find your content, but they can’t help you build trust to get someone to buy your product or sign up for your service.
Use keywords wherever you can, but don’t sacrifice clear, descriptive writing for the sake of a keyword. Google’s getting a lot better at understanding text without exactly matching keywords. Clarity and good, detailed writing helps Google understand your page too.
When Not to Use Keywords
This caveat has a little bit more to do with your site structure than it does with writing an individual SEO-friendly piece.
Competing pages on your site will work against each other. This is called keyword cannibalization. When Google sees two or more pages with overlapping keywords it won’t be sure which one to show people. It might pick the wrong post, or worse, a competitor post.
Do Not Sprinkle Your Best Keywords Throughout Your Site
This is not optimization.
Group keywords by page and use them solely on the page they’re designated for. If you’re addressing a specific issue, question, or need with your blog post and writing in a lot of detail, you’re less likely to have overlap.
Are There Exceptions?
Yes. It’s probably nearly impossible to completely avoid your focus keyword on other pages besides the one you’re optimizing. And that’s OK.
When you do repeat a keyword elsewhere on the site note that it’s a great opportunity to do some internal linking back to the main page for that keyword.
For example, I might well use the phrase, “How do I write SEO-friendly content?” elsewhere on our site. I’d link it back to this blog post to help Google understand that’s exactly what this page is about…and not the page I’m linking from.
Guidelines to Create the Perfect SEO-Friendly Structure for Your Content
Structure Is Queen.
The content itself is King, so we’ll make structure the Queen. Failing to address structure creates a lot of missed opportunities. If it comes down to a great post that is structured correctly and one that isn’t, Google will pick the one that’s structured correctly. Every time.
Here’s how to structure your post for success.
Write a Strong Introduction
Your first few sentences should clearly say what your post is about in a compelling way. It’s like a short elevator pitch for your blog post.
Say what you’re going to say in the post and say why someone should be reading it.
Use subheadings as much as possible. They’re the ideal place to put keywords and they break up the text for better readability. It will look like this:
Your title will be set as Heading 1 (H1) in WordPress automatically. Your first heading will be Heading 2 (H2), then your next level down will be Heading 3 (H3).
Heading 1: H2
Subheading 1: H3
Subheading 2: H3
Heading 2: H2
Subheading 1: H3
Subheadings are good for people and search engines, so don’t neglect them. You should have a good array of H2 headers (your key points and keywords) and H3 headers, which are smaller headers that break up the text even more.
These are a lot like the outlines you used to write in school. Here’s an example of how headings should be used, using a blog post about bankruptcy for reference:
H1: What is Bankruptcy?
H2: Types of Bankruptcy
H3: Chapter 7
H3: Chapter 13
H3: Chapter 11
In WordPress, you can highlight your heading and choose between H2 or H3 text.
Use Short Paragraphs
Nobody has the time or energy to read a big block of text. Most paragraphs shouldn’t be longer than 1-4 lines.
Use Simple Sentences
It’s okay to have some compound sentences in there. Variety makes a piece readable.
Still, trim your sentences down wherever it makes sense to do so. One trick for this is to look for adverbs and adjectives. Find opportunities to replace them with more specific nouns. Is it a “big church,” or is it a “cathedral?”
Use Bullets and Numbers
Little lists within the piece break up the text and let people digest information quickly. It prevents your post from looking like one, long, intimidating “wall” of text.
Write Your Tags and Name You Files
Your readers never think about file names or alt tags, but you should. Google’s bots scan this text to understand your page too, if your developer has everything set up properly for SEO.
Video, Audio, and Image File Names
You might include photos, video files, or audio files in your blog post. File names are a great place to use keywords if they apply to exactly what the image shows. An entire component of Google’s search engine is dedicated to images.
- Use keywords when they’re applicable, but only when they are applicable.
- Make file names descriptive. Don’t use “image1” or “image2”. Use “business owner writing a blog post on a laptop,” if you’re writing about blog posts and the image is of a person at a computer typing. Use “cheese crackers cheese board” if you’re writing about cheese and crackers and how you display them on a cheeseboard at your restaurant and the image of is of cheese, crackers, and a cheeseboard.
- Use hyphens or spaces to separate individual words.
- If you’re trying to rank for local keywords you can use them in the image file name
Example: Berkeley-restaurant cheese-crackers-cheeseboard.
Alt tags are another opportunity to add keywords. Alt tags are used both by search engines and those who use screen readers to have your webpage read to them. Screen readers are used by those with visual or other impairments that preclude them from reading your website.
- Make them as descriptive as possible.
- Use keywords when they’re applicable, but only when they are applicable.
- Tags should be 4 to 8 words wherever possible.
If you’re using WordPress, you can copy the words you wrote into the alt text box into the title box.
Example: Berkeley restaurant display of cheese and crackers on cheeseboard.
Don’t use default title tags. You’ll miss an opportunity to tell Google what you’re all about.
- Title tags should be no more than 60 characters long. Use a plug-in, a character counter, or our free tool to help you check. If your tag is too short or too long Google will cut off your title tag or decide not to use it at all.
- Use the focus keyword in the tag.
- Capitalize the first letter of each word.
- Add your company name with a | divider. This divider is called a pipe.
- Each title tag needs to be unique. Use one unique title tag per page.
Example: Cheese & Crackers Cheeseboard Displays | Cheesy McCheese Co. in Berkeley
Want more tips on writing title tags? Check out this post from Moz.com.
Meta descriptions help people decide whether they’re going to click on your content. Think of them as though they are a mini-advertisement, but don’t forget the SEO benefits.
- Include the focus keyword for that page.
- Keep it between 140 and 160 characters. 160 is the cut-off. Use a tool like ours to check.
- Explain the benefits of visiting the page.
- Use a call-to-action to get people to read more, learn more, contact you, or whatever is relevant.
- Every meta description should be unique. Do not repeat them between posts or pages.
- Use the same capitalization you’d use in a regular sentence or blog post.
Example: Check out our incredible cheese and crackers cheeseboard displays. Make your own or find them in person at our Berkeley, CA restaurant.
Want more tips on writing meta-descriptions? Check out this post from Moz.com.
Link to Your Money Pages
Find an opportunity to link back to one of the pages that make you money.
These could be product or service pages. The link needs to fit in naturally with the content you are writing about.
More is not better than fewer. One link is suitable.
Link to Related Blog Posts
Keep your potential customers or clients on your site.
Link to your most relevant blog posts to keep them interested and reading.
If you can’t find a related post to link to, then you may need to re-assess your content calendar to be sure you have a strong overarching blogging strategy.
How Long Should Blog Posts Be for SEO?
Posts should be as long or as short as they need to be to answer the question or to be useful to the reader.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a length that gets more likes, more shares, more backlinks, and thus more SEO benefits. Whenever possible you should think about writing 1,500 words or more. If you want to hit the absolute ideal length for 2020 then you should aim for 2,100 to 4,000 words.
Yes, this means that some blog posts are going to read more like ebooks, and should include a table of contents right at the top of the document.
This doesn’t mean you should write a blog post just because you want to rank for a keyword, nor does it mean you should fill a page with fluff just to get closer to 2,100 words. You want to rank for duct tape. It probably doesn’t deserve a whole post.
Some keywords will be better as subsections of a larger blog post, or as answers in a FAQ.
If it’s worth talking about in-depth then you should at least be able to get 500 words out of the topic. If it’s really useful and you’re willing to dive deep, then 2,100 words should be a snap for you.
Use your judgment. Think about whether the result is something you would like, share or link to if you were in the demographic you’re trying to target.
Remember, if you want to make sure to write a good blog post for SEO: content is the horse, the keyword is the cart. Always put the integrity and utility of the content first. It doesn’t matter if someone finds your post if all visitors end up doing is hitting the back button when they get there!