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Welcome back to the Ultimate Guide to Blogging! This week’s segment is about how to write SEO-friendly blog posts.
Since I’ve been writing Uninspired for about a year now, and it’s been such an awesome experience, I decided to share everything that I’ve learned about blogging so far with you guys. There’s so much information that it’s a five-part series! You’ve got 1) how to create the perfect site, 2) designing that perfect site 3) how to write SEO-friendly blog posts 4) promoting those awesome posts and 5) affiliate marketing. And what’s the best part?! It’s all FREE!
I thought this might help you guys because here at Uninspired, we’re all about helping you become the best adult you can possibly be. Since the biggest thing a lot of you seem to need is a good side hustle, I thought this would be great information to have. This series will tech you how to make an awesome side hustle out of blogging. It’s great because you can just talk about the things you love, and get paid for it! As long as you follow the steps I’m outlining for you here.
So, here’s our outline:
- WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
- Web Hosting
- Plugins and Widgets
How to Write SEO-Friendly Blog Posts- YOU ARE HERE
- What is SEO?
- How to Write SEO-Friendly Blog Posts
- How to Get Good Photos
- Social Media
- Pinterest (not social media!)
- Link Building
- Approaching Brands
- Media Kits
- Networks to Join
Don’t have time to read the whole series right now? Get it sent straight you your inbox in a gorgeous, downloadable PDF to read whenever you’re ready.
The Ultimate Guide to Blogging Part III: How to Write SEO-Friendly Blog Posts
How to write SEO-friendly blog posts is crucial because it allows your site to be found on the web. So many bloggers don’t make it because they’re just writing stream-of-consciousness and not optimizing their content for Google. That’s okay if your blog is more of a journal, or if you’re not looking to make money. But if you want to monetize, you need to know how to write SEO-friendly blog posts.
What is SEO?
SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It refers to how easy it is for Google to find your post, and how relevant Google thinks it is. Literally everything on your site can affect your Google ranking. How many words you write per post, how many sites are linking to you, how organized your site is, and waaaay more. But the more Google likes your post, the closer you are to page one. That means more traffic, more lives you can touch with your brilliance, and more money in your pocket from affiliate marketing. So, when I talk about how to write SEO-friendly blog posts, I’m talking about posts that are most likely to get noticed by Google.
First things first: Get your site on Google Webmaster Tools.
Google will find your website eventually, because of the Googlebot. The Googlebot (say it out loud for fun) is a huuuge set of computers that runs around the web, grabbing (they call it crawling) new/updated sites. But you want to be as easy as possible to find. So, claim your site on Google Webmaster Tools to keep everything running smoothly. You can make sure they know about you, and fix any errors keeping your site from being crawled (crawl errors) as they come up.
After you add your site to the search console on Google Webmaster Tools, you have to give them a sitemap of all your posts and pages. Though this doesn’t improve your SEO itself, giving your sitemap to Googlebot helps him crawl your site more easily.
Yoast can make your sitemap for you.
Install it, and when it’s all set up, you’ll find it on the left of your WordPress screen. I’ve circled it in this screenshot below. Click that, and then click “features,” circled at the top. On that page, you’ll enable advanced settings, seen in the third circle. Save settings.
Now your list of options under “SEO” on the left side should be longer, and XML Sitemap should be one of the choices. Click it, and check the box that says “check this box to enable XML sitemap functionality.” Now, you can go back to Google Search Console and add it. Look for “crawl” on the left, click sitemaps, and on the top right, click on add/test sitemap. In the box that pops up, type:
This sitemap will update automatically, so you don’t need to do anything to it whenever you write a post. The only time you’ll need to reconfigure any of this is if you move your site to a new address. It’ll take some time for Google to crawl your site, so go get some coffee or eat a snack or something. You earned it.
Oh good! You’re back from your coffee break! Now we can talk about the anatomy of a post.
Now that you know what SEO is, and you’re set up to do a good job with it, we can talk about how to write SEO-friendly blog posts. I’m going to split it up into five parts: the title, meta description, body text, categories and tags, and images,. The way you handle these will all all affect your SEO. Before we get into that though we need to talk about your focus keywords.
Using focus keywords well is a big part of knowing how to write SEO-friendly blog posts.
Your focus keyword or key phrase is one that comes up in that post a lot, and that people will search for on Google. Mine for this post is “how to write SEO-friendly blog posts.” I chose this over something more generic like “SEO” because, even though fewer people will search for “how to write SEO-friendly blog posts,” the people who do are more likely to find me because there are fewer articles on that sepcific topic, and therefore less competition. Plus, since they searched for something more specific, it’s more likely that my post will be more relevant to them, and they’ll stay, or maybe check out another post. This long, descriptive key phrase is called a long tail keyword.
Focus keywords are super important for four out of the five parts of a blog post that I just mentioned, so it’s crazy important that you do keyword research.T hat means you have to look into what people are searching for, what the competition looks like for those terms, etc. I recommend The Hoth’s Keyword Planner. Now, let’s get into breaking posts down so you can really see how to use all this.
For the longest time, I was so frustrated by the fact that Yoast wanted me to put my focus keywords at the beginning of my title. I stared at that red light like, it’s freakin’ IN THERE! What more do you want from me?! But turns out it was actually really good advice, because Google only looks at the first 65 characters of your title. If your keyword doesn’t fit in there, Google won’t see it. And if Google doesn’t see the focus keyword in the title of all places, the article won’t seem very relevant to that keyword. So, focus keyword goes at the beginning of your title.
Your title also becomes your slug, or the end part of your URL with the dashes. The slug should also have your focus keyword, but it shouldn’t be too long. So edit if necessary.
Your meta description is the little blurb that comes up under your title in Google results. While it’s not insanely influential to your SEO, it’s free advertising, ya know? So in addition to making sure your focus keyword is there just for the human eyes that’ll be drawn to it in their search results, you should also be as witty and charming here as 160 characters allow.
Body of Post
There are a couple of ways your actual article can influence your SEO. First, I’ll talk about the length.
Google likes their posts longer, which makes sense, because that’s more space to shove focus keywords in. The general consensus is that regular content should be around 1,000 words. If you’re in a high-competition niche, or you reeeaally want to get noticed, experts say to go for 2,500. However, the length of your post is not as important as the quality of your post. So, if you can make your point in 1,000 words, don’t bullshit 1,500 more to get found on Google. Because even if you pop up first, no one will come back to your site when they see it’s over 50% bullshit.
The second part of SEO for body text has to do with, duh, focus keywords.
The number of times you fit your focus keyword into the text is called keyword density. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it used to be. Google had to smarten up because people were doing what’s called keyword stuffing. Basically, they were squeezing their keyword in every single place they possibly could to rank higher, but then their posts were unreadable crap. So now Google has measures in place to keep their search results as authentic as possible. Your keyword density should be between .05% and 2.5%. That means your keyword should be up to 2.5% of your text. Any more is keyword stuffing, and any less isn’t relevant enough.
Google also understands synonyms, which is why keyword density can safely go as low as .05. If you had five synonyms as your focus keywords (for example- if your original keyword was fly but you also wanted to rank for soar, hover, glide, and float) and Google expected your density to be at 1% for each of them, there’d be no room for content. It’d look ridiculous. So that’s cool.
Another way to optimize for SEO in the body of your post is to use internal linking.
Internal linking means linking to other blog posts on your own site. Doing this tells Google what the important pages on your site are. The pages that have the most internal links are likely to rank higher. And the pages that you’re linking to the most should be something called cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is the content that describes what your site is about– it’s the essential information about your site that you’d want your readers to have before anything else. I have two cornerstone pieces right now, and they are this one and this one. They explain the two biggest parts of my site– The Tinder Files and Mental Health Monday. The two main things that people come to my site for. Since those are the things that explain my site best, those are the posts I link to most often.
Considering you took the time to write all of your awesome blog posts, I’m betting you think they’re all important. Therefore, even if they’re not cornerstone content, you should have at least one internal link to each of your posts. If you don’t, they call it orphaned content, which is sad and you don’t want to do that to your work.
Categories and Tags
Correctly using categories and tags are another important part of knowing how to write SEO-friendly blog posts. They’re another way of organizing your content! Your categories are the main thing that you write about on your blog. Some of my categories are mental health, money, dating, and food. In those categories, you’ll find all the posts I’ve written about those topics. It’s been said that your categories should all be proportionate to each other. Like, my “Mental Health Monday” category has 24 posts, but my “Family” category only has one. Not ideal. I should squeeze that family post somewhere else, and delete that category until I have other posts that belong there. Since it’s about Father’s Day gifts, I might be able to put it in “Money.” (I’ll work on that as soon as I post this…)
You might be wondering why in the world I would put that Father’s Day post in “Money” when it really has almost nothing in common with my other money posts. Well, that’s because WordPress also allows for tags. Tags are a more specific way of organizing your posts. For example, within Mental Health Monday, I have tags for self-care, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and more. Maybe I could add a “gift guides” tag to my money category.
The final aspect of your blog post where you can affect your SEO is your images. While Google obviously can’t actually process what your images look like an whether or not they’re relevant to your focus, it does look for something called alternative text. Alt text is basically a description of your photo, just in case the photo doesn’t show up somewhere. But it’s also what shows up on Pinterest as your pin’s caption! I’ll talk more about Pinterest in Part IV.
For now, just know that alt text is super influential, because Google uses it as another measure for deciding the relevance of your post to the keyword. If your description of the image doesn’t include the focus of your article, points off.
How to Get Good Photos
Talking about images and alt text is a good transition to this next section– photos. This part is less about how to write SEO-friendly blog posts and more about just what makes a post good in general. A good post has photos. If you looked at a blog post, scrolled aaaaall the way down and saw nothing but text, you might get a little intimidated. Your text might be super awesome, but if it doesn’t look super awesome, you might scare some people away. Why lose readers when you can keep them just by adding a few pictures?
They shouldn’t just be any pictures though. They should be relevant to the post in some way, and on-brand. Take a look at the photo I used for my Pinterest image at the top of the post. It’s a photo of me, not doing any work because I’ve made the most out of my passion for blogging. I chose that image because it reflected how I wanted my readers to feel– relaxed, and like they’re living their best life. I also chose it because the colors went nicely with my brand colors- the pink and green. There’s some green in the grass in this image, and the light colors of my outfit and the background go nicely with my pink. It’s pretty on-brand. Not perfectly so, but I liked the idea of using my own photo for this.
I do suggest using your own photos if possible, because it eliminates any potential copyright issues, and the problem of other people having the same photos as you on their blog. And, like I mentioned in Part II, you don’t have to have an amazing camera to take good pictures for your blog. It certainly helps, as I’ve learned in recent weeks having gotten a fancy camera, but it’s not a dealbreaker. I went an entire year of blogging without one, mostly by using stock photos instead of photos I took myself.
Stock photos are basically photos that you can use even though you didn’t take the photo. You have to pay for some, like at Shutterstock or Canva, but you can get a lot of them for free! When photographers offer up their photos like this, they are relinquishing their copyright to the photos. Sometimes they do this for exposure, or out of the kindness of their hearts. Some, like on Pixabay, have a little donations option so you can send some cash even though they’re technically free. It’s good karma to do that every once in a while if you can! Here’s a list of great places to get FREE stock photos:
- StyledStock– free, feminine flat-lays that you can search for my niche or color. The color search is great for finding on-brand images.
- Pixabay– the one I use most often, Pixabay has a gigantic variety of images from every topic you can think of. I usually just type in my focus keyword and pick from whatever comes up!
- Unsplash– very similar to Pixabay, his is a giant library of free stock images. Huge. Thousands of photos to choose from.
- StockSnap.io– this one has a huge library too, and a cool feature where you can see the most popular images. Knowing what pictures people are using can help you decide whether a) to stay away from them because tons of people have the same one or b) use them because they’re obviously working.
- Negative Space– adds 20 free photos per week, and can be organized by category
- Freestocks– has 64 pages of gorgeous free photos, and you can organize them by category, or by a specific tag.
- Skitterphoto– I like Skiterphoto because they have a featured images section, and admin picks.
- New Old Stock– this one’s cool because they’re all vintage photos that have no *known* copyright restrictions. I guess a downside might be that if any of the pictures do turn out to have copyright restrictions, they’ll have to be taken down, but it doesn’t seem to happen often.
- Death to Stock– sometimes I use this one just because it’s such a cool site. Look how their unique voice and branding drew me to them!
If you can’t find a picture for your blog post here, you might want to take it yourself!
So, that’s the gist of how to write SEO-friendly blog posts! Look out for Part IV: Promoting Your Posts next Sunday, 1/21!
If you have any questions about anything in this post, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave me a comment! I’m happy to answer anything!