Writing Search Optimized Blog Posts
Whether you run a site or a blog, ongoing content creation is one of the best ways to attract search engines and build equity for your domain. Consider it one of the few clearly logarithmic forms of marketing; while your early work may seem futile, over time, content depth on your site will likely trump every other marketing channel.
Assuming you have a CMS in place (a Content Management System) and can effectively manage your website, and assuming you’ve optimized the site for search, you’re ready to start scaling content generation. A question I’m often asked though, is to summarize the few tips and tricks for writing blog posts and articles to ensure the most significant impact on your business.
I like to think of your content creation strategy as serving 2 of 3 goals. You are creating content as either 1) Link bait or 2) Keyword bait. Of course, the 3rd reason for content creation is to promote your products and services; we’re not focused on that in this case, we’re creating content to attract attention.
Like the bait you use fishing for trout, Link bait is the creation of content likely to attract links for your domain; think of the controversy, infographics, videos, and funny stories you’ve read and your propensity to share or promote them from your own site. Link bait is an effective and efficient link building strategy and one of your top priorities. Simply, all things being equal between your site and another, the site Google will favor is that which has more links to it from others.
The a less often evangelized and discussed opportunity to getting more traffic from search engines is keyword bait; writing for contextually relevant keywords that don’t directly support your products or services. You write keyword bait to index prominently on terms that reinforce your brand or create awareness for your work. For example, if you sell cars, you might create content about specific features on new models in your inventory; unlike link bait (how popular and excited might people be to evangelize your post about heated seats?), such content should be considered keyword bait, reaching potential customers who are curious about the features of cars.
Does your prioritization of link or keyword bait mean for updates about your service, news, or announcements? Make no mistake, those are certainly part of your content development strategy (and the following tips apply) but I want you to keep in mind that you are going to attract far fewer links, or prominence in search engines, for your news than you might for an incredibly viral piece that relates to your business.
So, with your CMS in place, your core optimization done, and your plans for content established, what should you think about while writing?
Tips for Writing Content Optimized for Search Engines
- Focus on the key terms. If your post is about the Rich Flavors of Apples, use that in the title, headlines, and in variations throughout the post: “delicious apples,” “apples to pleasure the palate,” “apple flavors meant for baking”
- Use headlines. Cordon off sections of a post with headers as I’ve done above. Not only do such breaks make for easier reading, the terms in the headline are more considered by search engines.
- Taking that tip to heart, bold and italicized phrases in your posts grab not just the attention of readers but search engines
- Make sure your titles are either engaging or keyword rich as appropriate
- While “Happy Valentine’s Day From My Company” is a nice update for users – no one is going to search for it. A variation of “Using Apples to say I Love You” might be a much more engaging and interesting topic that delivers the same message to your audience.
- Include images
- Link to blog posts – not blog homepages, not wikipedia, not about.com, not .gov .edu or major sites. Use Google blog search to find other blog posts and try to link to 5 from every article you write. Why?
- Blog post USUALLY automatically link back to your post, creating a link, while notifying the author that you promoted their work, creating awareness and fans amongst influencers.
- This requires some extra time but the effort is well spent. Only blog posts automate this pinging (as it’s called); your links to wikipedia, about.com, etc., while valuable for your readers, do very little for how well you index with search engines. To the extent that you can reference or source the same material from someone’s blog, do.
- Minimum 500 words. Length isn’t always ideal for readers but often preferred by search engines. No need to go long, but don’t be brief. How?
- Be descriptive; it benefits both SEO and makes for better reading:
- red delicious apples are hardly the most delicious OR
- the red delicious apple, which originated in 1880 as a yellowish fruit designed to replace the Ben Davis apple, is in fact one of the more bland varietals available today
- Go off on tangents. Take a paragraph to share you favorite autumn apple picking in Michigan. Go in to detail about an example you’ve given. Share your personal experience with a service
- Be descriptive; it benefits both SEO and makes for better reading:
- Leave a gap to encourage discussion; comments or blog posts in response to our own
- What do you think…?’
- How do you…?
- Finally, keep it natural. The most important thing you can do is write as you speak and not with the goal of achieving a specific rank in the search results in mind. You can’t do anything to guarantee you show up in a specific place in search results so don’t try (and don’t believe any one who says it’s possible).
Bottom line, start writing as the equity created from content builds over time, not just as your content indexes in search engines but as others discover your articles and create links to that which they’ve enjoyed. These tips are not meant to be prescriptive; don’t worry about following them to the letter and don’t bother taking the time to instrument them into every post – simply writing something is better than nothing at all. If you can, take them to heart, keep them in the back of your mind as you write and when appropriate, take the opportunity to create a more search friendly article.
I’ve not taken the time to explain why or how each of these opportunities results in content better optimized for search engines, if you are curious, chime in below or drop me a line.
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