Step-by-step guide: How to write SEO-friendly blog posts
If you run an online business or you have a website that you use to run a business, you’ve probably heard that you should be writing blogs for SEO. And while this is true, this (unfortunately) doesn’t mean you can throw something together that will magically rank at the top of Google Search results (a person can dream though, right?!).
We’ve all landed on an article or page that’s heavily optimised for SEO – it’s almost as though it’s been written for Google robots, and not actual humans.
And while you can get to the top of Google search results with content like this, it’s unlikely that people (potential customers and clients included in that) are going to want to stay on your site for long, or find your content helpful.
So, it’s really important when writing blogs for SEO that you write for humans, and optimise for search engines.
But before I get into the nitty gritty of exactly how to do this, there’s an important question to answer: why should you bother with optimising blogs for search? Can’t you just write something for your customers that you know they’ll find interesting?
To which I say, you absolutely can! But optimising blogs for SEO and writing interesting content for your audience don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Writing blogs for SEO can allow you to provide value and insight for your existing audience, while also increasing discoverability with people who might be interested in what you have to offer.
Which means? Writing blogs for SEO is a smart business move.
How to write SEO-friendly blogs
Writing a blog that is optimised for search engines while also being a joy for actual people to read is both possible and actually quite simple. And moreover, it’s really important. For Google to rank your blogs in search, it wants that blog to be two things:
- Optimised correctly to Google best practices
- A user-friendly experience with high editorial standards
Nail both of these, and you have yourself a recipe for success.
When I write articles for the Young Folks blog, there are some simple steps I like to follow to ensure that they’re optimised correctly for SEO. Here’s my method for writing an SEO-friendly blog post:
- Conduct keyword research
- Check out the competition
- Make a clear plan
- Use the right headings
- Write in short paragraphs
- Use internal links
- Get the length right
- Optimise your page title, meta description and URL
- Get someone to proof your work
- Share, share, share!
1. Conduct keyword research
The basis of any good SEO strategy? Keyword research. Keyword research refers to finding the words or phrases that real people are searching for in Google (or Bing), that have a decent amount of search traffic and align well with your product or service.
The trick to doing this for blogging is finding keywords that are phrased as a question or a ‘how to’. The reason for this is that you can then use the blog you’re writing to answer that question.
I like to use SEMrush to do this (for a free alternative, you can use Ubersuggest or Answer The Public). Start by plugging in a ‘seed’ keyword (this might be your product: for example, ‘indoor plants’). Then, choose the ‘questions’ tab option so that it shows you only keywords phrased as questions.
Make a list of all the keywords you find, with the monthly search volumes associated. For ‘indoor plants’ it might be: ‘how often to water indoor plants’. Then, pick a keyword that you’d like to write about, and you’ve got yourself an SEO blog topic.
Pro tip: Make sure when you search for your seed keyword that you ensure the results are for your relevant region (i.e. Australia if your business operates within Australia). Generally, Google ranks things differently by country, and the number of monthly search volumes are often different for each area.
2. Checkout the competition
Next up, it’s time to check out the competish! The easiest way to do this is to search for your keyword in Google. Then, click on the top 3-5 search results and have a good read.
This is just the first step – Google search results can vary based on your search history and location, so it’s worth checking the top search results in SEMrush or Ubersuggest as well for an independent view.
How these top-ranking brands are structuring their content and answering the relevant search query should give you a clear idea of how you should be structuring your content and what you should be writing about.
Make note of: the way the pieces are structured (are they using a numbered step-by-step format, or just a numberless list of ideas?), any important points you think they’ve included, and any important points you think they might have missed.
Remember, you want to make your piece of content not only similarly optimised to that piece of content, but better.
3. Make a clear plan
The next thing I like to do when writing my SEO blog is make a really clear plan. It’s like your teachers always said in high school: you should always make a clear plan before writing your essay (in this case, blog).
A general rule of thumb is that your SEO blogs should have:
- An introduction
- Body paragraphs with headings
Kinda like an essay, right? What I like to do is make a really clear list of ideas or points that I want to hit in the ‘body paragraphs’ section of the piece.
Pro tip: Remember when making your plan that the primary purpose of your blog is answering the search keyword you chose. When planning and writing your blog, do your best to answer the question or address the search query in the most useful and relevant way.
4. Use the right headings
Headings are one of the most important parts of structuring your SEO blog. Headings basically help Google to understand how the information is structured so that it can tell whether it is going to effectively answer user search queries. Here are the rules you should follow in structuring your SEO blog with headings:
There should always be an H1 (and only one!)
The H1 (AKA, heading 1), is the most important heading on the page in terms of hierarchy of information. It should clearly communicate what the blog is about, and include your target keyword in it once.
Use H2s, H3s, and H4s to structure the information on your blog
The information in your blog should be structured by heading – in order of H2, H3, H4, in order of importance. For example, take a look at how I’ve structured this blog based on headings:
Headings are one of the most important parts of structuring your SEO blog.
5. Write in short paragraphs
Did you know that 58% of all searches are conducted on mobile? Yup. This means making your piece (and your website more generally) mobile-friendly is super important.
An easy and effective way to do this for your blogs is to write in short paragraphs – this ensures that users who are reading your piece on mobile devices aren’t hit with huge slabs of text that is hard to read.
Moreover, if you’re writing your blog on your computer, *always* check to see what it looks like on mobile before hitting publish (I’ve made the mistake of not doing this before and it ain’t pretty!).
6. Use internal links
Internal linking refers to when you link from one page on your website to another. Including this in your blog has several benefits, including giving Google more information about what your blog post is about, as well as giving you an opportunity to direct the reader to other areas of your site.
But, don’t include links to anything and everything just because you can. The links you include should be relevant to the topic you are writing about and actually provide valuable information to the user.
For example? If you’re an indoor plant company and you’re writing about ‘how often to water indoor plants’, you might include internal links to another blog you’ve written on ‘how to care for indoor plants’, or a product collection page for ‘indoor plants’.
The links you include should be relevant to the topic you are writing about and actually provide valuable information to the user.
7. Get the length right
John Mueller from Google has flat out said (or tweeted rather) that word count doesn’t mean anything when it comes to ranking in search results. And yet there are stats that show that the top-ranking pages in Google have an average of 1,447 words, with longer articles receiving 77.2% more backlinks on average than short articles.
So that’s a little confusing. The main idea is: while the length of your content generally doesn’t contribute to search rankings, it *is* important to determine whether your target audience is searching for something that should be long-form.
Make sure you understand what the user is actually looking for, and try to answer that clearly (and in a detailed way if need be) in your blog post. Some queries might only need to be short-form, while some might warrant longer-form copy if answering the question in a thorough and valuable way requires this.
8. Optimise your page title tag, meta description and URL
Now even if you’ve written the most incredible, high-quality piece of SEO content imaginable, this doesn’t matter if you can’t get people to actually click on your site in search results. This is where page title tags, meta descriptions and URLs come in.
Writing a good page title tag
The page title tag is what people actually click on in search results. Take a look at an example from our site here:
Why does this matter? Well, according to Siege Media a well-crafted page title tag can improve the click-through-rate for your content by at least 20%. This means that people are more likely to click on your content, which can then improve your rankings even more.
Our general rules of thumb for writing page title tags:
- Include your keyword once, preferably close to the beginning
- Concisely describe what will be on the page (i.e. what the product or page is about)
- Include your brand name at the end
- Do not exceed 70 characters (or your content may get cut off)
- Note that Google’s max meta description pixel length for desktop is 920 pixels, and 680 pixels for mobile.
Writing a good meta description
Google has said that meta descriptions don’t directly affect search rankings. But, they do affect user click-through-rate (just like page title tags) and can be the difference between someone clicking on your content or scrolling past.
Our general rules of thumb for writing a meta description:
- Include the target keyword somewhere at the beginning of the description
- Describe what the page is about/what users will find on the page
- Include a clear CTA at the end of the description
- I tend not to exceed 160 characters, but you can have up to 320 words if you need to (although Google may cut it off in some placements)
Writing an SEO-friendly URL
And, finally, the URL presents another opportunity to optimise your blog. This is pretty simple: include your keywords in your URL at least once, and succinctly describe what the page is about.
In some cases, you may also like to remove ‘stop words’ from your URL such as ‘it’, ‘in’, ‘to’ or ‘a’. This is to make your URL shorter and clearer.
However, you should avoid removing stop words if they give important meaning to the URL in describing what the page is about. For example, say you used the URL ‘/what-is-digital-marketing’. In this instance, you might like to keep the ‘is’ as without this word the URL doesn’t make much sense.
9. Get someone to proof your work
Again, this is something you probably heard in high school: Always. Proofread. Your. Work. So, before you hit ‘publish’, I recommend two things:
- Proofread your own work. Start by doing a sense-check: i.e. checking that it all makes sense and flows well. Then, do another proofread and check for spelling and grammar errors.
- Get someone else to proofread your work. Sometimes, no matter how many times you check your own work, there will be errors or things that don’t make sense to other people.
Proofreading is vital for SEO – if it doesn’t make sense to people or it’s not a clear read, people won’t stay on your site. And given that page dwell time and user experience are important ranking factors, a piece of content that doesn’t read well might do more harm than good.
10. Share, share, share!
Finally? Once your blog is published, share it on your other marketing channels. Depending on the content and topic, you might like to share it via email newsletter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Social signals play an important role in indicating to Google the quality of a blog post, so make sure you share it far and wide.
When in doubt, remember your audience
At the end of the day you should always prioritise writing for your audience. Your SEO blog can be optimised to the nines but if it’s not written for humans to enjoy then it won’t have cut-through in search results.
Remember: you’re writing your blog to answer the query of a real human: whether they typed in ‘how to write an SEO-friendly blog’, or ‘how often to water indoor plants’. The key purpose of your blog is to write easy to understand, helpful content that will truly provide value to them.