SEO

How to write an SEO-friendly blog post in 2018

With so many things to focus on these days, it can be difficult to know how to create engaging blog content that ranks in search engines.

Matt Jones is a UX Designer and Front-End Developer working at Pixel Palace in Brisbane, Queensland.
Matt Jones
Head of Digital Experience & Strategy
How to write an SEO-friendly blog post

Think bigger than keywords

There was a time when you could jam your keyword into your page, then sit back and watch the traffic roll in by the thousands. Nowadays, things aren’t quite so simple. It’s still important to spend time researching keywords to ensure the volume is there, but there are two other important factors to consider: topics and searcher intent.

Imagine you’re trying to write an SEO-friendly blog post for your jewellery blog. You do some keyword research and come across the following search terms: ‘clean diamond ring’, ‘how to clean engagement ring’, and ‘diamond jewellery polish’. The old-school approach would be to bang out a separate page for each of these keywords.

With a topic-focused approach, you might start by thinking about if there’s a broader topic that includes all three of these keywords: maybe diamond jewellery care? Furthermore, when you explore searcher intent, you’ll find all these people are searching for the same thing: easy ways to keep their diamond jewellery looking great.

The resulting post title: “5 simple jewellery care tips to keep your diamonds sparkling”. This post is specific enough to target people specifically looking for how to clean a diamond ring, but broad enough to include the wider topic of diamond jewellery care.

PRO SEO TIP: Explore topics and searcher intent as well as keywords

Now, it’s possible to go too broad with the topic-focused approach: ‘The Ultimate Guide To Jewellery Maintenance” probably won’t rank for people looking specifically for diamonds. There are a lot of types of jewellery with different materials, so this topic wouldn’t be able to go into substantial depth with any of them. Even if the post is absolute dynamite, this topic is a bit too broad. Unfortunately, the “write great content and they will come” isn’t quite where we’re at yet in SEO world.

Building out your topic is a good way to signal to Google what your post is all about. A great tool for exploring your topic through the eyes of Google is LSI Graph. These aren’t specific keywords you want to necessarily rank for, they’re there to help Google clearly determine the topic of your post, so they can more effectively compare it to similar content. This can help you rank strongly for more search queries related to this topic. Pepper them throughout your post where it makes sense to do so.

Choosing a relevant blog post topic

Write something worth reading

95% of blog posts don’t need to exist. They just don’t. 

The worst kind of blog posts are the ones that are written for no one. They offer zero value to anyone who reads it. They’re irrelevant, vague, and they try to cover too many topics in nowhere near enough detail. The title is boring, the style is dull. There’s no impact, no sizzle, no practical reason for anyone to ever search for, read or share it. They’re all about the writer, not about the reader. This kind of content exists because a business is trying to make their monthly quota.

Corporate blogs are the most guilty of this. ‘Summary of our 3rd Quarter AGM’. Seriously? Posts like this belongs in your internal newsletter, not your external-facing blog.

Long story short? Nobody cares!

Now, creating great content is easy to say, very difficult to execute. Here are some tips:

  • Identify the value. Before you start, write down what makes your post remarkable. Is it unique? Is it useful? Is it entertaining?
  • Test your content with someone outside your niche. Would an average person find your post (at least a little bit) interesting? If the answer is yes, it means your post just might be compelling enough to post.
  • Don’t put lipstick on a pig. If the content is bad, no amount of hyperbole and low-quality gifs will somehow make it worth reading. The most expensive special effects don’t save high-budget action movies from being dull and generic. Remember, bad content is losing your business money. 

Writing an SEO-friendly blog post takes significant resources – make ’em count!

SEO blog post titles

Workshop your post title

Spend time working on your post title before you write your SEO-friendly post.

Firstly, this will give you a clearer idea about what your post will be about.

Secondly, having a great title will help with your post engagement. For better or for worse, the title is what will have the biggest impact on someone clicking into your post, or ignoring it. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Similarly, you shouldn’t judge a blog post by it’s title, but we all do.

Finally, your post title can have a large impact on your SEO. Be sure to include some version of your post topic.

PRO SEO TIP: Brainstorm 10-15 different titles for each blog post. This might seem like a lot but if there’s one thing you need to be perfect, it’s the title.

A great title is compelling, descriptive and SEO-friendly. Not every post you create is going to hit all three of these equally, but it’s something to aim for. A compelling headline makes the content more interesting. A descriptive headline helps the user understand exactly what the post will be about. An SEO-friendly headline has been optimised to appear and convert well in search engines.

PRO SEO TIP: Create a separate title for social. If your posts are getting shared on social media (which they should) it’s a good idea to create a slightly more compelling, less SEO-friendly title that will only appear when your post is shared on social media.

Blog post length 2018 SEO

Write more

How long should a post be? 300 words? 1,000 words? 30,000 words? You may have heard that SEO-friendly blog posts should be at least 300 words long for maximum SEO effectiveness. However, in 2016 the average content length for a page 1 results was around 1,900 words. Most people aren’t putting out content anywhere near this length! It takes time, resources and good strategy to create in-depth blog content.

PRO SEO TIP: Write at least 1,600 words. We’ve found this is a good place to start. This will ensure you’re getting enough volume on the page to provide some value. Of course, 600 well-written, useful words will always be better than 4,000 words of rambling nonsense. You need to have 1,600 words of content to say, or you’re wasting your readers’ time.

Remember, Google is favouring one-stop-shop pages on your website. The algorithm likes posts that give the reader everything they need to know, all in one visit. Longer posts usually provide more value than short posts, as they go into more depth. We’re looking to create in-depth, comprehensive guides, rather than short blog posts. Is your post the best resource possible for your topic?

PRO SEO TIP: Compare your post to the top 10. A great place to start is by Googling your post title and checking out the top 10 posts. At the end of the day, your content needs to be better than your competition in every possible way. If they have 800 words and 4 images, you should aim for 1200 better words and 6 more relevant images. This is known as The Skyscraper Method.

Rich multimedia content in a blog post

Use rich multimedia content

A good way to keep users engaged with your content is a good use of multimedia elements.

Original images (with relevant alt text) are usually better than stock. Just like custom design is better than what you’ll get on Fiverr. However, not everyone is a photographer or has the skills to create original graphics, so if you can find an evocative stock image that’s relevant to your content, go ahead and use it. Don’t replace entire text articles with a video – most of your readers are probably on mobile and won’t be able to watch it. Also, don’t make your videos autoplay.

Blog post structure and flow UX

Improve the content experience

Think about exactly how your content will be experienced once someone lands on the page.

Is your post engaging? Usable? Fast-loading? Scan-able? Is it well written? Is it visual? Is it readable?

Or is it a giant wall of text? Are your ads distracting? Are your calls to action irrelevant? Is your font colour too light? Is the text too small?

Google has been placing high value on interaction and engagement. This means, the more your readers stick around and interact with your posts, the higher quality Google will think they are.

Think about the flow of the content. Think of each post like a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. When someone lands on your post, what do they see? Is the introduction engaging or does your post start with a super boring backstory? Does your post post build to a climax and finish with a bang?

Or does it simply peter out in a cloud of rambling, cluttered ideas? Maybe your hero image is just too damn big? Are your social media sharing buttons negatively affecting the reading experience? Maybe your popup is too obnoxious. Solving these user experience issues should be a high priority.

PRO SEO TIP: Pay attention to your analytics. A lot can be learned about how users are experiencing your content from the analytics data. Pay particular attention to bounce rate and time on page.

Blog post user experience on mobile

Mobile

It’s important to pay close attention to how your content performs on mobile. (We recently switched our entire agency to a mobile-first design approach)

Does it look good? Does it load fast? How’s the readability? Are the margins too big?  Does the good stuff start before the user has to scroll?

With some posts, you can’t even see the start of the post without scrolling down! Obviously, mobile users know to scroll, but it’s generally better for the user experience if they can start engaging with your content immediately. It’s one less hoop they have to jump through, and small changes add up quickly in mobile UX.

PRO SEO TIP: Test your blog post on multiple mobile devices. It’s especially worth grabbing an old phone with a smaller screen to see if your stuff looks good and works smoothly.

Optimising URL structure for SEO

Clean up the URL

PRO SEO TIP: Cut the fat. This will make your URLs more useful for users, and signal to Google what your post is about. Remove any words that aren’t adding anything to the URL. Your keyword, or at least a version of it should appear here. But remember, don’t keyword stuff! Having a clean URL will make it easier for users to understand what the page is about.

For example:

yourwebsite.com/the-top-10-absolute-best-cheeseburgers-in-sydney-cbd 

should proabably just be:

yourwebsite.com/best-cheeseburgers-sydney

Blog post heading structure for SEO

Heading structure

It’s still a best practice to include a single H1 tag on your page, which should contain your main target keyword. You can also include a variation of your topic in at least one H2 tag.

PRO SEO TIP: Use multiple headings to structure your post and make it easier for your readers to scan. Structuring your post using multiple headings is a great place to start planning your post, before you write the actual content. It can help you decide on main topics and plan the content flow. Headings should stand out a lot from body text and make it easy for users to quickly scan.

Optimise blog post for voice search

Voice search

Voice search is on the rise. People are talking to their phones, smart speakers, and other devices like never before.

The key here is to remember that humans don’t talk to their smart speakers using keywords – instead they speak like a normal person. We ask Google a question like we would ask a friend.

For example, someone will voice search: How old is Tom Cruise? People will be less likely to ask their speaker: Tom Cruise age in years

What does this mean for SEO-friendly blog posts? It’s time to start optimising for the way humans talk to their devices – that is, using natural language. When planning a post, consider how your niche will voice search.

Optimising blog post search appearance

Search appearance

Click through rate (CTR) is trending down now that organic search results are competing hard with rich snippets and paid search, so you’ll need to bring your A game when it comes to how your posts will appear in the SERP (search engine results page).

How does your post compare against the top 10? Is your title just as compelling? Is your description attention-grabbing? Do they have schema features you’re missing?

The SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is just another opportunity for your content to stand out and entice folks to check it out.

The Skyscraper Approach SEO

Innovate or improve

There’s a lot of content out there. If you want people to read your stuff, you’ll have to make something that really stands out right? Well, sort of.

Sure, it can definitely help if your content brings something new to the table – this makes it more exclusive, rare and people can only find it in once place, giving it more value. Do your research and don’t write that same post that everyone else in your industry has already posted, unless it’s part of your cornerstone content strategy. If your goal is to stand out, don’t ramble on saying the same old stuff everyone else is saying.

That being said, you should focus on innovating the content itself, not totally reinventing the wheel. For example, you probably don’t need to invent a fancy JavaScript-based slideshow application, that takes the user horizontally as they scroll. Blog posts made up of a combination of text, images, and video should be just fine. For example, you might think it would be cool to build an entire article from gifs and images. Your content might be highly entertaining, but this won’t help your page SEO. Innovate the content itself, not how the content is delivered. Focus instead on creating an impressive turn of phrase, a helpful info-graphic, or sourcing an emotionally engaging image.

Most creators will have a better time aiming for better, not different. There’s a saying that it’s good to zig when others zag, but often it’s better to improve upon what already exists. If you can’t think of something unique to post about, try to improve on what someone else has already done.

Simply, take a piece of content that already exists, and execute it better in your own style. Make your points more clearly with better examples. Do better research, gather better data. Deliver more value.

Creating awesome content vs SEO

Final thoughts

The biggest piece of advice we can give you is focus on your content and how people experience it. Don’t get too caught up in SEO metrics and optimising every last HTML tag. 98% of bloggers should be more concerned with putting out good stuff than worrying about SEO.

Put yourself in the shoes of one of your readers, and think about the ideal solution, and deliver that. Solve peoples’ problems and Google will reward you!

Good luck and happy posting!

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