Blog post SEO is vital if you want to maximise the value, readability and discoverability of the content you create. Read this guide to find out how to optimise your titles, URLs, subheadings, body copy, hyperlinks and written style.
And once you’ve learned how to search optimise your posts, check out this guide on generating hundreds of high search traffic blog ideas.
The introduction of semantic search has made using exact-match keywords less important for blog post SEO. And plugins such as Yoast have made optimising your content for your keywords much easier.
But creating solid SEO content still requires the following:
- A clear title that aligns with your keywords
- A tidy URL that aligns with your keywords
- Good use of subheadings
- Short sentences and paragraphs
- A clear written style which Google will be able to interpret
- Good use of internal and external links
As I’ve said elsewhere, when it comes to SEO, the devil really is in the detail. Consistently aligning your content with SEO best practices will have a massive impact on that content’s performance in the long run.
Why is blog post SEO important?
The first answer is obvious. The better you search-optimise your posts, the higher they rank. The higher they rank, the more traffic you get.
But there’s another reason it’s important. Google’s algorithms prioritise what they feel are the clearest, most targeted and most valuable pieces of content. In a qualitative sense, search-optimising your content just makes it better. It makes it more targeted and focussed by picking one core keyword or topic. It makes it more readable by encouraging short sentences, short paragraphs and plenty of subheadings. And it makes it richer by encouraging the use of imagery and video.
Basically, a search-optimised blog post will be offer a better experience for the end-user. That’s why Google prioritise it. So even if these steps didn’t impact your search rankings, they’d still be worth doing.
What makes a good blog title for SEO?
It should go without saying, but you want to have your keywords in your title. If your keywords take the form of a question, then you can match that question exactly in the title.
For instance, if your keyword is ‘What are scrum ceremonies?’ then your title could be ‘What are scrum ceremonies and why are they so important?’. This title would be more effective than, ‘Why scrum ceremonies are so important’, as you’ve directly referenced the user’s question, reassuring them that they’re going to get an answer.
Setting aside searchability, good title have two qualities. They are specific and they are explicit.
Specific in the sense that they tell you exactly what they’re going to be talking about. Explicit in the sense that they leave no room for ambiguity. They should tell you, in just a few words, what the topic is and why you should read on.
What words should I include in my URL or slug?
Your ‘slug’ or URL is the permalink that users and search engines will use to access each piece of content.
Your slug should be as short and clear as possible, while containing your most important keywords apart from any stop words such as ‘the’, ‘but’ and ‘is’. If your site is well structured and you don’t have any duplicate content then you shouldn’t need to add any additional words to your slug to differentiate it from other posts. If you do, that’s probably a sign that you’re doubling up on your keywords – find out how to avoid this here.
How should I use subheadings?
Subheadings are important for blog post SEO but also for readability.
You will want to reference your keywords in your subheadings. Subheadings are also a good place to reference terms closely associated with your keywords. Or questions which aren’t the core focus of your article but are closely related.
Subheadings are also important for readability. Most content gets skim-read, rather than read in detail. People skim through content looking for the things they’re really interested in. Your subheadings should help the reader know when to ‘tune in’. They also help the reader know what it is they should be taking away from each section.
A good test of whether you’ve used subheadings properly is to remove all the body copy. Ideally, the title and your subheadings alone should walk you through the content in a logical and coherent way.
A simple way to use subheadings that I often rely on is question and answer. The subheading poses a question, the body copy answers it. The post then becomes a series of questions and answers which is easy for the reader to follow.
You’ll want to include a subheading every 250 words or so to help your reader follow your train of thought and break up long passages of text.
A quick note on subheadings and pull quotes
People sometimes confuse subheading and pull quotes. Pull quotes are found in newspapers and magazines. They are snippets of text from the body copy which are singled out and enlarged. Subheadings and pull quotes are different things. Subheadings are signposts. Pull quotes are added colour. If in doubt, don’t use pull quotes. And if you are going to try and use them, find some way of signifying – for Google and the reader – that they’re not your subheadings.
For the sake of comparison, here’s a screenshot of a subheading and pull quote in close proximity:
What’s the ideal sentence and paragraph length?
There’s no perfect sentence or paragraph length. It all depends on context and what you’re trying to say. However, when it comes to blog post SEO, Google prefers short sentences and short paragraphs. The same goes for readers.
Great walls of text put people off and long sentences are hard to follow. In fact, long sentences are often a sign of muddled thought. Clear thought tends to take the form of short, clear sentences. Notice how when you read a book by a popular contemporary author such as Malcolm Gladwell, the written style tends towards short, punchy sentences. Short sentences are a sign of good, considered writing.
How can I help Google interpret my content?
As Google has become more sophisticated, it has become more able to understand not only the words being used but also the relationships between those words and the likely meaning.
This makes it much easier for readers to find the most relevant content for their search. Which, for content creators,it makes it more important than ever to write in a way that Google will be able to interpret.
Here’s an example of Google interpreting text:
Are you looking for help improving your blog post SEO?
If so, feel free to drop me a line anytime using the button below. And if you’re looking for more tips on how to generate high search traffic blog ideas, hit the link to see the process I use.