The purpose of a blog has shifted since the beginning of the web. Once it was a convenient way of telling site visitors about what was new on the site. It truly was a web log, like a captain’s log of a ship, telling the reader what changed on the site on different dates. Some of these blogs were detailed, identifying subtle changes in text, and some were broad just telling the reader if any new significant content was added to the site. These blogs changed and started to include personal notes. Then, the blog became the content.
For a long time we saw blogs as the source of new content. Meta-blogs like Huffington Post came along helping curate all the content. We are now at a point where at a point where over 4 million blog posts are published every day. More content is created than can be consumed.
Why would someone want to start a blog now, knowing the competition for attention is intense?
According to a survey conducted by Blog Tyrant in 2018 (the best I can tell), 43.6% of the 350 bloggers surveyed started their blog as a hobby. A 69.3% of the 350 bloggers surveyed expected to make some or a lot of income from their blogs. At one point earning an income from a blog seemed like a crazy pipe dream, but as a few individuals found commercial success, it inspired others to follow in their paths.
I have spent most of my digital marketing career working on SEO projects and I know the one thing I struggle with is getting good backlinks to websites. A lot of people performing SEO struggle with this and have turned to influencers to help with this. Influencers are the bloggers and social media people with a significant enough following that they can send relevant traffic to a website. These bloggers with the right kind of audience can monetize their blogs.
As SEOs rely on bloggers for links, it become clear some of these influential bloggers are not properly optimizing their blogs. Many are making common blogging mistakes a lot of bloggers make. Some of these bloggers began their blog with no concept of SEO or how to promote their blog. When it should take weeks to get new organic traffic to their sites, it is taking much longer. This is the essence of optimization. There are literally countless ways to accomplish a specific result in digital marketing but there are only a handful of ‘optimal’ ways of accomplishing those specific results.
Good optimization is efficiently getting organic traffic to the site in a minimal time with minimal cost. We have to be careful when we talk about time in terms of SEO. Minimal time means compressing what could take a year to accomplish into a 5 to 6 months. Nothing I write is about a ‘new trick’ to get the search engines to favor your site in a matter of days. My focus is always on long-term sustainable growth.
I am not speaking to every blog owner out there. I am speaking directly to the blog owners who expect their blogs to earn them money, whether because it makes them an influencer or because they have enough traffic to sell ads. I am speaking to blog owners who began their blog based on a personal passion and not part of a digital marketing strategy for their business.
A lot of what I am about to discuss can apply to all blogs, but business blogs part of a digital strategy have a different backend process where keyword research and search intent it driving a lot of the decision making. Passion project blogs started by hobbyists to share their unique take on a topic base their content decisions on a more personal level. They end up writing about the things they want to with little concern about keyword search volume. These bloggers do not start writing a blog post thinking about the SEO strategy but instead are more concerned about the specific topic, even if it has no search volume. I’ll address why this is a good thing later on in the post. Basically, sometimes it is a good thing to write the piece of content no one else is writing.
Are These SEO Tips Universal?
According to Websitesetup.org, the most popular content management systems based on market share as of 2018 are as follows:
- WordPress – 59.7%
- Joomla – 6.7%
- Drupal – 4.7%
- Magento – 2.3%
- Blogger – 1.9%
- Shopify – 1.7%
- TYPO3 – 1.5%
- Bitrix – 1.5%
- Squarespace – 1.4%
- Prestashop – 1.3%
When we get into the low percentages, I sincerely doubt the accuracy of the numbers, but I feel quite confident WordPress is the most used CMS for bloggers. I am also willing to bet Blogger and Squarespace are the second and third options used by people only writing blogs and nothing else. I say this only because of the ease of use and setup and the amount of advertisement we see for Squarespace (this blog is not sponsored by Squarespace).
The SEO advice written here does apply to WordPress and Blogger. It can apply to Squarespace but the limited amount of optimization I have done on Squarespace sites has led me to believe that if you are serious about blogging as an influencer, you should choose WordPress over Squarespace. I have spent enough time in SEO forums and chats to know that there is a contingent of people who disagree with me. They may have great success ranking blogs on Google using Squarespace. I’ve yet to see a Squarespace blog (keyword here is blog) dominate in search. Most likely this is due to the limited amount of blogs that use Squarespace over WordPress.
The advice presented here can be adapted to any CMS, I just may not have the specific knowledge of the backend to guide you on exactly how to implement the advice.
Blog Post Titles and Descriptions
Blog Post Titles
I have witnessed online arguments over what is and is not a ranking factor that included everything from the use of strong tags to the order in which header tags were used, but I have never seen anyone argue against the Title used on a webpage or blog post not being a ranking factor. It is the single most important element you can optimize for search.
When creating a title for your blog post, think beyond your first impulse. Go ahead and write down five or six versions of the title. Do you need a little help in getting started? Don’t worry, there have been a lot of very smart people who have investigated the issue of properly titling blogs not only for SEO but to engage web users to get them to click and read the post.
Blog Title Resources
- 10 Tips for Creating Great Blog Titles
- How to Write Catchy Blog Post Titles That Get Clicked Like Crazy
- Catchy Blog Titles: 5 Steps, 100+ Formulas, 500+ Words
- How to Write Truly Great Headlines
- The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Powerful Headlines
When researching blog titles for SEO purposes, you will see a lot of advice about placement of keywords. Many SEO tools, like Moz’s On-Page Grader will warn you if you haven’t used your targeted keyword phrase at the very beginning of the title of the page. Go ahead and ignore those warnings. What matters most is the title makes sense, makes a clear promise, and directly mentions the topic you are writing about.
There are many places to express your creativity, but a blog title is not the ideal spot for that. Go ahead and use those super-creative titles for the post in your social media. There was one point in time where there was a company called Upworthy that repurposed other people’s content by giving it a better headline in social media channels. Upworthy took headline writing to a whole new level.
Blog Post Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are also not debated much in SEO terms, but for a different reason than titles. The general consensus is the use of keywords in meta description has little bearing on whether or not a page/blog post will rank for that keyword in organic search. A meta description speaks directly to searchers and provides them with the first glimpse of your content. A well-crafted meta description acts like a call-to-action, with the action being “click the blue link and read more”.
The following resources can help you create meta descriptions for your blog posts.
Meta Description Resources
- How to Create the Right Meta Description
- How to Write a Killer Meta Description That’ll Hoover Up Traffic
- How to Craft the Right SEO Meta Description
- How to Write a Good Blog Post Meta Description
- Beginner’s Guide to Setting a Meta Description in WordPress
URL structure seems like a super techy, crunchy thing to be concerned about in terms of a blog, but it is one of those elements you have a lot of control over which affects SEO. In WordPress you control the URL structure in the Settings>Permalink section.
WordPress defaults to a plain structure which uses a parameter (it is a ? in the URL). What you want is the option that is Post Name. It is the simplest structure with the fewest / in it. The fewer forward slashes in the URL the better.
Whenever you can control the URL, you want to make it as simple as possible while still making sense to the reader. People have an expectation of URLs. If I’m on http://example.com/Topic and I visit a page that the navigation is telling me is under Topic, then the URL I expect to see is http://example.com/Topic/Page.
Conversely, if I land on the website at the URL http://example.com/Topic/Page, I expect to be able to visit http://example.com/Topic and be a level above the Page. We want there to be a sense of connection between the pages, with similar pages grouped together.
I know when setting up a website, it feels like we should be able to accept the defaults, especially when using a venerable CMS like WordPress. You can’t, though. The defaults are not ideal for SEO.
URL Structure Resources
- 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs
- The Complete Guide on Structuring Your URLs Correctly
- The Ultimate Guide for an SEO-Friendly URL Structure
- Which is the Best Permalink Structure For Your Blog?
- Does URL Structure Even Matter? A Data Driven Answer
You can fly by the seat of your pants when you are blogging for passion. If you are at a point where topics to write about don’t come naturally to you or if you feel maybe you are rushing in writing certain posts that deserve more care, then maybe it is time to implement a content calendar for your blog.
Content calendars do not have a direct relation to better SEO. I am not saying ‘blogs with content calendars get more traffic and produce more results. I am saying blogs with content calendars are more likely to produce consistent high quality content. High quality content generally is more valuable to readers and gets more engagement and backlinks, which can improve how search engines rank the content over time.
It is a nuanced statement as I do a little CYA. I dread the moment someone yells at me for saying content calendars are a ranking factor. I am not saying that. Okay? Okay.
A lot of the value a content calendar gives you is allowing you to better budget your time. There are many ways you can create a content calendar. Check out the following resources to help find a method that fits your way of running your blog.
Content Calendar Resources
- How And Why You Need To Create A Content Calendar For Your Blog (That You Actually Use)
- How to Create an Expert Blog Editorial Calendar with Examples
- 5 Tips For Building a Blog Editorial Calendar
- How to Create an Editorial Calendar in Google Calendar [Free Templates]
Basic Keyword Research
As a blogger of passion, you probably are generating your blog topics based on what you want to write about and not based on intense keyword research. This does not mean you should ignore keyword research. You want to make sure you are writing about your subject in a way that people search for it.
Organic search is how you are going to get new readers to your blog.
The simplest of ways to do keyword research is to search for your topic and see how all the other websites reference the topic. Check out how the titles are written and how the first headers of the pages are written. Replicate this and you will at least be aligned with the competition.
Keyword Research Resources
- Why You Shouldn’t Do Keyword Research for Your Blog Posts (And What to Do Instead)
- How to Do Keyword Research for Your Next Blog Post
- How to Do Keyword Research for Your WordPress Blog
- How to Do Keyword Research for the Perfect Blog Title
Setting Up Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Search Console, and Facebook Pixel
But WordPress gives me traffic and analytic information!
No. Stop it. Are you serious about blogging? Then get serious and use the right tools. Analytics will show you exactly which pieces of content are getting traffic and which aren’t. You will see which pieces of content is getting people to sign up for your email list.
Additionally, when you use Analytics, you can activate Google Search Console which provides more vital information for your blog. A blog, especially a new blog, won’t get a lot of traffic from organic search, but your blog is coming up in search. You can see what search terms your content is ranking for.
If you are serious about being successful, even moderately successful, you need to make sure you are collecting data in order to measure the success. While this SEO advice is not glamorous, fun, and is kind of difficult, it is a vital step in your future success.
Setting up Analytics is not ‘sending a person to the moon’ difficult, but it isn’t a quick flip of a switch. You will need to create a Google account (get a GMail address), set up Google Analytics for your website, and put a piece of code Google gives you onto your website.
I am also going to strongly recommend you set up Google Tag Manager, which complicates this entire process but will allow you to easily track whether or not someone has fully read your blog post.
Finally, you will need to put similar code from Facebook onto your website. It is sometimes referred to as the Facebook Pixel, but it will provide you with more data about your web visitors from Facebook’s point-of-view. Yes, it is actually super creepy how much these companies know about us.
Setting Up Google Analytics
Get Started with Analytics
Setting Up Google Tag Manager
Setup and Install Tag Manager
Setting Up Custom Metrics for Analytics using GTM
This is a detailed guide on setting up custom metrics using Google Tag Manager from Kickpoint.ca. For anyone running a blog and expecting the blog to generate an income, this is a must. There are other variations of this code out there, but I have found this code and the instructions that comes with it to be convenient and not that complex to implement.
Content Consumption: Go Beyond Pageviews
Setting Up Facebook Pixel
This video was produced by Facebook to help people setup Facebook Pixel on their websites. Create and Install the Facebook Pixel: A Facebook Ads Tutorial
Setting up Goals
When your blog isn’t connected to a business selling goods and services but is a product in itself, you might wonder what kind of goals are meaningful. You aren’t trying to get people to buy something or give you their information to become a lead for a service.
The goals for your blog are more about engagement. I already covered measuring whether Getting readers to subscribe to the blog, sign up for emails, accept push notifications, download ebooks, white papers, or in the cases of a blog being used for affiliate marketing, clicking on affiliate links.
Getting email signups is the most basic of goals you should be implementing on your blog. Oh, yeah, as a blogger, building an email list is a high priority.
Google Analytics Goal Resources
Verify Content Has Been Indexed
You spent time writing your blog post and telling all your family and friends about it. You’ve posted it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. You’ve shared it on Reddit and Digg, if that is still a thing. But did you check to see if Google has the new content in its index?
This is a basic SEO task but vital. After publishing your blog post, give it a day or two and then do a site search on Google to see if the new blog post is listed there.
How to do a site search on Google?
Since you set up the Search Console, you can go to the Search Console and select URL Inspection. Put the URL of your blog post in the search bar and Search Console will tell you if the URL is on Google. If it isn’t on Google, you can select the button, Request Indexing.
Updating Old Content
You’ve published your blog posts and you keep finding new things to write about. As time passes, your older blog posts might not be getting the traffic they once were. Competition, shifting search trends, and changes in Google all work against your content.
Revisiting older content, rewriting it, promoting it in your social media, building some fresh links to it, and breathing new life into can revitalize the traffic it once had.
There are several ways of identifying ‘dead’ content and content that is dying.
Improving Old Content Resources
- Bring Old Blog Posts Back to Life: 5 Strategies that Work
- Twice the traffic in half the time? How to update old blog posts for better results fast.
- 9 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic By Updating Old Blog Posts
Not using internal linking is one of the common mistakes bloggers make. Links are an important part of SEO. Internal links are links pointing to another page on the same website.
Internal links help search engines understand the relevance of pages, how pages relate to each other, and the value of the pages on the website. Anchor text of internal links can also help sort out keyword relevance for internal pages that have similar topics.
Use internal links with rich anchor text to help differentiate your pages when they are on similar topics.
Internal Linking Resources
- Internal linking for SEO: Why and how?
- Neil Patel’s Guide to Internal Linking
- Internal Links for SEO: An Actionable Guide
External links are links pointing to websites other than the website the link is on. Explaining these things sometimes feel very patronizing. Of course you know what external links are, but blog etiquette states I have to define these things. In SEO we often talk about getting backlinks, inbound links, links from other websites to our websites. We don’t often think about the links we create to other sites.
(That is a lie. We have to worry about whether our links are follow/no-folllow, but bear with me.)
When creating an outbound link, we have to be careful what we are linking to. I have a mantra which has served me well. Don’t link to the 4 Ps.
- Porn – Do not link to adult websites.
- Poker – Do not link to gambling websites.
- Pills – Do not link to websites selling prescription drugs.
- Payday Loans – Do not link to websites selling personal loans/title loans.
Do link to sites that are authoritative on the topic you are writing. (Hint, see what I’m doing with this blog post? It is a study on internal links and outbound links.) Linking to sites with authority on the topic you are writing makes your blog post a resource for the reader.
- Do Outbound Links Affect SEO?
- Study Shows Outgoing Links Have Positive Effects on SEO
- Outbound Links Tutorial
Every good blog post, blog posts of true quality, will have pictures. Pictures need to be optimized. What does an optimized picture have to do with SEO? An optimized image is one that has an alt tag that both describes the image and ideally uses a variation of the keyword related to the topic of the page.
Images should also be named with a descriptive file name.
When you save your images, save them the size you need them. Don’t force your web visitors’ browsers to do the heavy lifting of downloading a giant image that gets squashed down to a tiny image on the page.
Save your images optimized. That means as compressed as they can possibly be before starting to look jagged and wrong.
And here is where things get weird. I’ve been working on websites since 1997. I’ve played with bmps, jpgs, jpegs, gifs, tifs, and pngs. Google is now talking to us about next generation image formats: JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP.
WebP – Image format that supports lossy and lossless compression, as well as animation and alpha transparency.
JPEG 2000 (JP2) – created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group committee in 2000 with the intention of superseding their original discrete cosine transform-based JPEG standard (created in 1992) with a newly designed, wavelet-based method.
JPEG XR – The latest JPEG image format of Joint Photographic Experts Group which boasts better compression and supports lossless compression, alpha channel, and 48-bit deep color over normal jpg format.
These new formats are not fully supported on all web browsers, but it is important to keep up to date on these new formats because they allow your pages to load fast. Fast loading pages rank better in Google.
- 6 Tips for SEO Image Optimization
- Image SEO: 12 Actionable Tips (for More Organic Traffic)
- 10 Tips for Optimizing Your Images for SEO
Putting it All Together; What Results Can You Expect?
Applying all of these tips to your blog posts will make them rank on page one for any term you want.
That is a bald face lie, but I really wanted to have a dramatic conclusion to all of these tips. When you apply all of these tips to your blog posts, consistently then you will see your posts rank faster and rank better than if you didn’t consistently apply these tips to your blog posts.
It isn’t as strong of a promise as the guarantee, but it is the truth.
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