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Let’s be honest: content optimization can be a bit of a bore. If only you could just write a blog post and publish it without too much fuss about keywords, meta elements, and target audiences.
And in truth, there is nothing stopping you from publishing a non-optimized blog post.
However, if you want to improve the overall performance of your website with the help of your blog posts, and in turn improve your rankings and drive some more traffic, optimization is not a step you want to skip.
When executed correctly, a well-written and well-optimized post can even help you increase conversions — and grow your brand faster than you ever could’ve imagined.
Let’s look at the makings of these kinds of posts, and how best to tackle them:
Have a strategy in place
In order for your blog posts, and in turn your website, to attract the right kind of audience, you should have a plan in place: one that will help you write your posts, optimize them for the right keywords, and attract the audience you desire.
A strong content marketing plan is the basis of any successful campaign, and here is how to assemble one:
- Define a target audience: marketing for everyone is like marketing for no one, and you need to be careful when selecting the audience, you want to appeal to. Think about the basics (like who would your product or service help most), but make sure you also get really specific (how old are these people, where do they live, what do they like watching and reading, and so on).
- Define your goals: many marketers make the mistake of setting a goal like “publish X posts per week”. This is a goal that literally gets you nowhere. So, what if you publish five posts? What are they doing, except sitting around? The overarching goal for your blog should be increasing conversions and improving your website’s performance. The way to do that is to optimize each post for search as well as you can, or alternatively, promote it so well that you get a lot of targeted traffic to it without ranking organically. This is why you should choose your audience and keywords meticulously.
- Define your key performance indicators: based on the point above, your KPIs include the following metrics:
- Number of visits — to track how many people are seeing your posts (your aim is for this number to constantly go higher)
- Rankings — ideally, you want to rank in at least the top three for your chosen set of keywords (make sure you don’t stop promoting a page after it has reached the top spot, as others can catch up)
- Time on page — if someone visits your page but leaves after a couple of seconds, it’s a clear indicator you have not answered their query; if you get this a lot, work on the quality of your content.
- Pages per session — you want visitors to stay and explore your website, so if they only look at the page they’ve landed on and leave, you might want to rethink the way you include your internal links.
- Conversions — naturally, conversions are your ultimate goal, so make sure you are tracking them properly (and that you have defined them correctly, whether it’s a newsletter signup or a purchase).
Gather all the right data
Now that you have a plan in place, but before you begin any research and writing an actual post, it is very important that you have the right data available about the behavior and the interests of your target audience. After all, if you are merely making assumptions about their preferences and interests, you may be speaking to them in the completely wrong voice or from the completely wrong angle.
Supermetrics for Google Sheets and/or Supermetrics for Excel can help you gather this data and analyze it in the best possible way, as it enables you to access all of your data gathered from different sources in a single spreadsheet or dashboard. Instead of spending hours on copy/paste and looking at a bunch of different windows, you can house all of your marketing data in one place, and make smarter and more educated decisions.
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You want to be looking at things like:
- What kinds of articles are your competitors writing? In what kind of voice?
- What are some of the keywords your competitors are having success with?
- What solutions are already available on the market?
- What kinds of social accounts does your target audience follow?
And the list can literally go on forever — but hopefully, these four example questions have given you the right idea.
Look for answers in your Google Analytics, Ahrefs, SEMrush, SparkToro, or Moz. Bear in mind none of these third-party tools will ever give you exact numbers, but if you choose one and stick to it, you will always be able to check your progress.
Psst! For a detailed breakdown of what kind of data you should collect and analyze for an SEO blog audit, check out this post.
Choose the right keywords
If you happen to choose keywords you can never rank for in the first page of search results, let alone in the top three, you won’t be improving any metrics. While it is perfectly fine to have several posts that are difficult to rank for but are interesting to read and will provide value to the visitors who do land on your website, the majority of your posts should work around keywords you can rank for.
The key to finding these kinds of keywords lies in looking at two metrics: search volume and competition. You ideally want to find a keyword (which will more likely than not be a long tail keyword) that has some decent search volume but where the pages ranking high for it are ones you can easily outrank.
They need to have very few if any backlinks, but they also need to be getting some decent traffic for these posts, a tool like Ahrefs can help you find these low-hanging keywords.
Make sure your website is up to the task
If you want the blog posts you are so carefully crafting to improve your rankings and other website performance metrics, you need to make sure the website can actually rank better. Here is what you need to have in mind:
- Hosting: if your website is not hosted on a speedy and safe server, it may never be able to outrank much weaker competitors. Check the speed of your server’s GTMetrix and look at online reviews — is your host reputable and reliable? If not, make sure you switch your web host as soon as is viable, and choose one with perfect uptimes and expedient servers.
- Content management system: the CMS you use will make optimizing and posting your articles more or less complicated. Without a doubt, we’d recommend using WordPress, not just because it’s the most popular CMS, but because its features make it easy to make your writing stand out in the best possible way.
- Design and layout: if your website is ugly (no offense), no one will want to read your posts. If it’s difficult to navigate and find things on it, people are also not likely to stay. Make sure your design is light (so that the website can load fast) and efficient, intuitive, and in line with the product or service you are selling.
Don’t push your keywords
While choosing the best keywords is important, the days of stuffing them senselessly into an article are long gone. In fact, we have reached a time when optimizing for a keyword or a set of keywords is more about writing an excellent article on the subject at hand than mentioning key phrase X times in Y words.
Yes, you are still advised to add your keyword to your title, to your meta description, and to a heading here and there. But more importantly, you need to be writing well and providing value.
This is without a doubt the challenge most people are faced with: focusing on SEO as opposed to copy and content writing. Also, granted, not everyone is a good writer, and communicating thoughts and ideas comes more easily to only a select few.
In order to get your blog to rank high, find a writer (if you yourself aren’t one) who can cover your topics in-depth, providing real advice and information someone will be happy to read and can use in life. Don’t worry about keywords: you will naturally rank for a whole bunch of them anyway.
Add the right images
Blog posts are as much about visuals as they are about the words, so you will need to choose your images carefully.
Always opt for an original graphic if you have the resources. Stock images might look nice, but they are not at all personal and tailored to your brand, and they can be used by anyone. You don’t want to have the same images as a disreputable fraudulent website, do you?
Another important point to bear in mind is to use your images to enhance the post, not just stick anything on there for good measure. When writing, try to think about the kinds of illustrations that would work well, and make notes on them. Don’t forget you also need to optimize your images: this means always adding an ALT tag, an image description, and a title.
ALT tags serve to tell search engine crawlers what the image is about, as they can’t look at images like humans can. Image descriptions are meant to give more detail about an image, and this is a great place to add some relevant keywords (relevant to the image, not the article) to help the image rank better.
The image title is just like the title of a blog post: it gives the image a name. Also, make sure all of these elements describe the actual image, and that you are not using them as a space to stuff your keywords.
Add internal links
Internal links are not only a way to direct traffic, they are also a way to pass on SEO value from one post to another, and more importantly, from a blog post to the service and product pages of your website.
As with keywords, the main piece of advice we can give you about internal links is to make them natural. Don’t add dozens of them to a page, but when writing a post, think about the best way to mention some of your services or products, and link out from there. Always use exact match anchors for these links.
Another point to bear in mind is that you don’t want your posts to turn into a commercial — when talking about yourself and linking to your own pages, focus on providing solutions and value, as opposed to making a sale.
Don’t forget about the meta
Finally, there are the actual elements of optimization SEOs love to talk about: meta titles, meta tags, meta descriptions. While these elements are no longer as important as they used to be (in a time when adding your keywords here could significantly boost your rankings), you still need to make sure they are written well.
You can use a plugin like Yoast to access these elements easily and remember: you are still writing them for people, and not search engines. You want your meta description to draw visitors in, as this will be the snippet of your article, they see in search results.
Add your keywords to your titles and tags, but only once, and in a natural way.
As you can see, content optimization is more about value and research than it is about tinkering with meta elements. As user experience becomes increasingly important, we shouldn’t make the mistake of skipping basic good SEO practices. But on the other hand, we shouldn’t try to hack a search engine either.
An article that provides something tangible will usually fare better than an over-optimized and overstuffed piece of bad writing.
About the author
Deana Kovač is an internet marketing specialist at Point Visible, a digital agency providing custom blogger outreach services. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and singing karaoke. Also, her day just can’t start without a hot cup of coffee.