How to Write an SEO Friendly Blog
Writing new blog content and want to make it more SEO friendly? Here are some tactics I use regularly to help my writing rank well.
Make Your Blog Post Easy to Skim, Scan, then Read
Most people online are impatient. They'll give your blog post a quick review by looking for headlines or other elements such as maps, videos, images or graphic elements that allow the reader to determine if your content is worth reading. Keeping paragraphs or sections in your blog short and to-the-point makes it easier for your readers to skim which entices them to scan and read your post.
Blog posts that contain long paragraphs without headlines or other bits of visual interest such as images, maps or videos generally doesn't lead to high visitor engagement.
So what's page engagement have to do with SEO? Plenty. Pages with high bounce rates (a.ka. "I came to your blog post, I visually skimmed it, I left") and low reader average time of page don't tend to rank as well as pages that have low bounce rates and higher on-page visitor times. Many reports show the majority of websites have Google Analytics installed. So Google knows your blog pages data including bounce rate and average-time-on-page. (And it's be argued that even if you don't have Google Analytics installed on your website Google has ways to figure out levels of engagement for your blog posts or other content.)
Link Out to Authoritative and / or Related Websites
Don't "force" adding links in the content you write but if you can "appropriately" reference something you are writing about add a link.
e.g. RELATED LINKS: if you're writing about "Pemberton BC restaurants" and referencing places to eat then don't be afraid to link out to websites like Mile One Eating House or other online channels like Facebook or Google+
e.g. AUTHORITATIVE LINKS: if you are writing about a term like "periodontal disease" linking out to a definition of the term on an authoritative website like Wikipedia or the Canadian Dental Association could be very appropriate.
Don't forget to add "title tags" to these links that "fit" a description of the page you are linking to! Title tags are descriptive keywords or phrases that should reinforce what the link is about. For example, if you hover your mouse over the MileOneEatingHouse.com link shown above you should see the link's title tag text appear. This title tag reads "Mile One Eating House - Pemberton BC". (NOTE: how link title tags render on your screen varies between browsers and operating systems.)
The general consensus is that "link title attributes" don't directly help with SEO, but they can make the user experience better. And improving user experience ultimately is a very good SEO practice.
Don't go overboard but definitely link out when it make sense! e.g. see the links on /news/2014/7/25/data-informed-web-development/ for an example of a blog post I have written that links to other websites "appropriately".
Link to Another Page on Your Website... Carefully!
And if you have linked out to another website or two don't be afraid to add a link within your website or blog. e.g. an SEO related blog post on CustomFitOnline.com might link out to Google Analytics, MOZ or other SEO resources and having a link within the post that linked to /search-engine-optimization/ probably wouldn't hurt ... as long as the link appeared to be "natural" in the writing. Put another way, if the link to another page on your blog post enhances the page's content then it can be useful.
Again, links should "fit". Don't "force" them by adding a link for the sake of adding a link! Linking out should help provide value to your blog post. If you take the attitude that you are enhancing the experience for your readers by adding resources that include links to your own content, that's a sound SEO tactic.
Add Other Types of Content Like Maps & Video
Embedding Google maps or a YouTube or Vimeo video is another way to enhance your blog post's content and can help with SEO.
Again, the embedded content has to "fit" so if the map or video helps explain and enhance your blog post's "story" that's the time to add these features.
e.g. a Google map for showing home location on a REALTOR website is a perfect example of this
e.g. a Google map marked up showing biking trails on a mountain bike post is very appropriate
e.g. a Crankworx video on an event listing about Whistler Crankwork is perfect
If I were writing about Whistler Creekside Village businesses embedding the map below would really help. Why? The map helps "tell the story" by showing business locations and hence enhances the blog post.
Name & Tag Images Correctly
When using an image file within a blog post make sure keywords appear in the file name.
e.g. 6563434-ode.jpg stinks .... whereas if the image is a hamburger from an aforementioned Pemberton restaurant then naming your image something like mile-one-pembie-burger.jpg is entirely appropriate.
ALT tags are descriptions that you can add to an image that help website visitors (and search engines) determine what the image is about.
e.g. letting your CMS use the file name 6563434-ode.jpg by default as the ALT tag stinks ..... whereas using "Mile One Eating House Pembie Burger" is good because it describes the image accurately
Having keywords and phrases in your image file name and image ALT tag can also help get your images in Google image search. Text search isn't the only way people will find your blog! More and more people are using image search.
Make Your Content Easy to Engage With
Adding social media sharing icons to your blog post in areas visible to readers typically improves social sharing via Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Beware of third-party social sharing icons like AddThis or ShareThis. These apps make sharing content easier, but they can also really slow download times for your page. And poor page load times negatively impact user experience. Google doesn't like pages or websites with poor page load performance and that can impact your page or site search engine rankings. That's why we don't use these services on this blog!
Adding a comments field at the bottom of your blog post helps encourage engagement. Tracking page engagement via commenting is certainly part of Google's algorithm that impacts search engine ranking results. If your blog posts have lots of relevant comments from "real" people that's a signal to Google, BING and Yahoo that your blog post content is likely good quality.
Wrapping Up Some SEO Tips for Writing Blog Posts
In summary, a blog post that is well optimized for search engines is...
- well written and is "chunked" in short sections with headlines and subheadlines to make it easy to skim, scan and read
- contains images that are named appropriately and have keywords describing the link in image ALT tags
- links out to other sites, when appropriate, using keywords in the link's title tag
- contains appropriate embedded interactive maps that explains or furthers the content's story (if appropriate)
- contain an embedded video, that helps explain or further the content's story (if appropriate)
- contain social sharing / bookmarking services that make it easy to share the content
- offer commenting capabilities to encourage dialogue
Do you have any SEO tips that you would like to share? Feel free to add your comments below!