A Comprehensive Guide to Optimizing Blog Posts for Search in 2023
If there's one thing we've got a lot of in 2023, it's content. Marketers are spitting out fresh content at lightning speed, and now, with the help of AI, it's even easier to flood your audience with blog posts.
Any SEO worth their salt knows that "content for the sake of content" isn't a worthwhile or lasting strategy to pursue. Just because you're creating content doesn't mean it's getting seen by your target audience. And if it's not getting seen, it's not serving its purpose.
Don't let your content get lost in the digital void. Now more than ever, you need to make sure you're creating thoughtful pieces that follow blog SEO best practices to get the most out of your content.
How do blogs help SEO anyway?
Blogs play many roles in supporting your overall search engine optimization strategy, depending on your brand goals. A successful blog can:
- Establish brand awareness and authority in search results
- Drive relevant organic traffic to your site
- Nurture any leads that may need more information before converting
- Help establish topical authority and industry expertise
Selecting a topic
The first step to creating any successful blog post is selecting the right topic. That topic will depend on your industry and audience. Here are a few reminders to note when selecting a topic:
- Make sure your topic resonates with your audience and matches their search intent.
- Make sure you haven't covered this topic in a previous blog. (You don't want to cannibalize other content!)
- Make sure you're an expert on the topic and aren't just creating content for the sake of it.
It helps to think about why you're writing a piece of content. Is it to grow your company's authority and position the brand as a thought leader? Is it to provide value to your audience? Maybe it's a combination of those things.
Regardless, it takes quality content to reach those goals, so don't lose sight of the need to make your content high-quality. At the end of the day, you want to create helpful content rather than contribute to the digital clutter.
Diving into keyword research
Keyword research is a crucial element of optimizing a blog post and is the foundation for ranking higher in search results. Selecting the right keywords for your content tells Google what you're trying to rank for and can help your content get discovered.
When conducting keyword research, you can rely on keyword research tools like Semrush, Moz, or Google Keyword Planner that can help you analyze which keywords make the most sense for your content, goals, and your audience's intent.
Whenever you use a keyword research tool, make sure to validate your research by plugging your keyword into Google and analyzing the SERPs. When examining the SERPs, ask yourself:
- Does the keyword intent match the reported intent of the research tool and make sense for your content?
- What type of content is already ranking and where is there room for improvement?
- How does your take on this topic add value and support your brand goals?
For more tips, check out our blog post on how to identify focus keywords.
Once you've identified your target keywords, make sure to use them throughout your blog post in ways that feel and read naturally. Be careful of keyword stuffing though! In other words, don't force keywords into your post. Try to spread them out amongst your headings, subheadings, title tags, and body copy.
Don't underestimate semantic keywords
Semantic keywords should also be part of your overall keyword research process. A semantic keyword is a word or phrase that is conceptually or topically related to your target or seed keyword.
Think about semantic keywords like this: "Ken" and "Dreamhouse" are both conceptually related to "Barbie".
Using semantic or supporting keywords helps convey to Google the holistic view of your topic, therefore providing the best, most relevant options to users in search results.
They're also helpful in regard to quality and long-form content. When you consider your topic from all angles through the use of semantic keywords, you're more likely to cover the related subtopics. And covering the related subtopics helps you create a more useful piece of content and establish topical authority.
On-page SEO recommendations
After you've locked down your keywords and written your blog post, you'll want to start narrowing in on core optimizations to make. You can either do these as you write or go back and address them before your content goes live—whichever process makes the most sense for you. Each of these on-page SEO optimizations can contribute to a better-performing post.
1. Implement page structure/headings
When writing blog posts, part of your job as the author is to create a positive user experience. The factors that contribute to a positive user experience are often also the same factors that search engines use to rank content.
Page structure is an example of this. Google prioritizes pages with good structure, and having structure on a blog post makes it much easier to read. By adding page structure, you're creating content for both people and search engines.
When organizing your post, do so in a way that divides content into sections with headers and subheaders. H1s and H2s are heading tags that give your page a hierarchy. They act as headers and subheaders, organizing content into sections that users can easily skim to find what they're looking for. Headers and subheaders can greatly improve your page experience while optimizing your content for search.
2. Optimize meta description and title tag
Optimizing your meta description and title tag is another simple-yet-effective way to improve your content for search.
A meta description is a short summary sentence or two of the contents of your blog post that gets displayed in the search result. It's a good place to add keywords and is an important spot for you to pay attention to because it can greatly improve clickthrough rate when written well.
The title tag is the title of your content that shows in search results. It doesn't necessarily have to be the same as the title of your blog post, but it can be. Regardless, you should include keywords and your brand name, if possible.
3. Utilize internal linking
Blog posts are free-standing pieces of content that aren't really related to the other content on your website. At least, not in a hierarchical sense.
That means search engines will have a harder time discovering and crawling blog posts, meaning they won't get a good understanding of your site's structure. Internal linking helps solve that issue by letting the search engine know which pages are related to the blog post and how the blog fits in on the site.
Internal links might include other blog posts, service pages, your contact page, case studies, etc. The more links you have, the better. It makes navigating your site easy and helps the user get to the content they want to see.
Internal linking also passes link equity from one page to another, meaning some of the authority of the existing page gets passed to the new page, which can help it rank higher.
In addition, internal links can help your visitors navigate your site with ease. Rather than having to hunt around for a related page, users can utilize the links you've placed for them to improve the click path.
4. Optimize the URL
Make sure you pay attention to your blog post's URL structure, or /slug/. The slug appears in the search result and can be altered to better suit your needs. You can change the language to better represent your page, add a keyword if it makes sense, or shorten the original slug.
This is important for sharing the contents of your page with the searcher. If your slug shows that your page aligns with the query you're trying to rank for, a user will be much more willing to click.
Don't forget about optimizing the URL for website hierarchy either. Each parameter of your URL can be thought of as a pathway. The first portion of the URL tells Google and users what the website is, while the parameters that follow convey the different sections or main navigation components of your website. A clear, easy-to-understand URL structure is crucial for both SEO and UX.
5. Include images and alt text
In some instances, your best chance of ranking will be from images or other media sources. After all, you know what they say—a picture's worth a thousand words!
When using images in your blog SEO strategy, make sure they all have clear and accurate alt text (alternative text) that can be easily read by screen readers.
Does alt text help SEO?
It definitely can, but keep in mind that alt text's primary purpose is to describe images to visually-impaired visitors for improved website accessibility.
For this reason—whether it helps your rankings or not—it should be standard practice anytime you use images in your blogs or other website content.
Off-page SEO recommendations
Off-page SEO tactics are things you can do to make your blog get more traffic in more indirect ways. When you're optimizing on-page SEO factors, you're trying to increase visibility in SERPs. Off-page tactics can pull site visitors in from other places.
1. Implement a backlink strategy
Earning backlinks is a valuable SEO strategy that involves earning links to your site from other trusted sites. For instance, if you share a smart or underreported statistic in an SEO blog post, another blogger might refer to your post in their content, referencing the data you shared. This allows you to potentially capture traffic and authority from that site.
This is a tactic that may require planning and partnering with other credible sites (particularly ones that make sense for your business goals and industry). To execute this, you can either reach out to those sites directly or consistently link to sites that you'd like to work with. Hopefully, they'll eventually take notice and start doing the same for you. Of course, it's far quicker and more efficient to reach out, but implementing their links on your site is a good way to show you're willing to partner.
Perrill's Backlinking Tip: To get the most out of your outreach strategy, make sure to utilize "unlinked mentions"
2. Promote your posts on social media
What good is content if it isn't shared and seen by others? Round out your holistic blog SEO strategy by sharing your blog posts on social media. This is a great tactic for pulling new visitors to your site by attracting them with helpful content.
Just be sure to use UTM tracking tags so you can look at where your site traffic is (or isn't) coming from.
Other blog optimization tips
We've finished covering the key blog SEO aspects, but we're not done yet! We have a few remaining tips worth mentioning that can elevate your content from both an SEO and a user experience perspective.
1. Use high-quality assets
Blog posts with videos and images can really stand out in search results, but when you're using these assets, make sure they're high-quality and you're adding alternative text to each asset. Search engines will favor higher-quality assets over low-quality ones.
2. Update or "re-optimize" older posts
It's important to pay attention to older site content, too. Refreshing old blogs with new information can help that content continue to rank well, even years after their original publish dates.
Performing a content audit is another (more in-depth) option to help you determine if it's time to clean out old, outdated content that no longer serves your brand or your SEO strategy.
3. Craft long-form content
Long-form or "ultimate guide" style content tends to rank higher in search results, so prioritizing the creation of longer, high-quality pieces of content is a good way to get your page ranking.
4. Make your blog visible
When putting time and effort into a content strategy, be sure to think about where this content is going to live. Is your blog clearly accessible whether someone lands on your homepage or a service page?
Think about the goal of your blog and the traffic you're wanting to generate from it before you decide to bury your blog in the footer or create access solely through well-intentioned internal links.
Maximize your digital strategy with Perrill
Blogging is an effective way to bring visitors to your site and share valuable content with your audience. And with these helpful tips, you'll be able to elevate your content to ensure you're reaching the right people at the right time with the right message.
Of course, successful blogging is only one piece of the digital marketing puzzle. A strong SEO strategy requires a more holistic marketing approach.
If you could use a team of experts at your back, reach out. We'd love to get our hands dirty and start building out a custom content and SEO strategy to help your brand stand head and shoulders above your competitors in the SERPs.