Writing for SEO: How to Write Blogs That Rank on Page 1 of Google
If you’ve ever written a blog post before, you know how much time they can take.
From topic selection, to gathering research, to writing the post and pressing “Publish,” the process often demands hours.
That’s why, if your post doesn’t earn the traffic you expected, it can be a major letdown. All that work that goes into a post for less-than-stellar engagement is, no doubt, one of the most frustrating experiences.
Fortunately, there’s a way to combat low traffic and bring eyes to your writing: search engine optimization. SEO is a language that speaks specifically to search engines like Google to tell it your post deserves to be at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).
As marketers, we’re always aiming to write content that’ll rank highly on Google, and SEO is the bridge that’ll help you get there.
Of course, that begs the question: How do you write in SEO’s language?
For that, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. In this post, we’re going to dive into 13 ways you can master writing for that high ranking your content deserves.
Ready to get started?
1. Use headings to your benefit.
Headers tell Google what different sections of your blog article will be about. In this post, for example, the header, “How To Write Blog Posts for SEO,” tells the search engine what this section is about.
Users who type search queries like, “writing for SEO” into Google will likely come across this post because of what the header tells Google. Ultimately, search engines are going to look at headers and snippets before they look at body text.
Think of Google as a reader who is skimming your blog. They’re going to focus on the main ideas — and that’s what headers, like H2s and H3s, display. Use headers to accurately convey the main idea of your section, but make sure each header uses accurate, high-intent keywords. When you use the right keywords (using keyword research tools) you have a much higher chance of helping your post rank on the first page.
2. Take advantage of featured snippets.
According to Google, “Featured snippets come from web search listings. Google’s automated systems determine whether a page would make a good featured snippet to highlight for a specific search request.”
Featured snippets on Google are the most direct answers to search queries. For instance, if I were to search, “How do you write a blog post?”, Google might use a featured snippet to show the most sufficient answer:
To earn a featured snippet on Google, you’ll want to answer the questions readers might have when they come to your blog post. For instance, if the search term is “how should I write a blog post?”, answer that question with a list, starting with “How to Write A Blog Post” as the header, accompanied by a list of items that are relevant and actionable.
If you’re wondering how to make list items actionable, a good rule of thumb is to write complete sentences and start each sentence with a verb, like “Write”, “Research”, “Create”. Additionally, make sure each sentence answers the question or challenge. For definitions, or paragraph snippets, make sure they’re succinct, but give enough background to explain the word or phrase.
3. Write to answer questions for customers.
One of the reasons we write blog posts is to diversify the content on our website. Another reason is to boost the credibility of our business. But if “to solve for your audience” isn’t in your list of reasons, you may be losing out on key SEO opportunities.
Google answers countless questions a day. For instance, I must’ve Googled about five questions in the last hour alone. When you frame posts to answer the queries of your audience, Google will see that and push your post to a higher page.
Earlier, we talked about the bells and whistles you can add to posts to boost rankings. But, additionally, you’ll want to ensure the content you’re beefing up is also working towards that goal.
If you’re stuck on trying to figure out what your audience is asking, you’ll want to perform keyword research. Sites like Ahrefs and Woorank crawl search engines for popular search queries. To organize the process, create different topic clusters to write about, such as “Instagram Marketing,” “LinkedIn Advertising” — subjects you can dive into that provide value to your audience.
Still stuck on keywords? Don’t worry — this keyword research guide is perfect for beginners.
4. Use meta descriptions to your advantage.
Are you adding meta descriptions to your post? If your answer is “No,” then you’re probably not giving your post the most exposure possible. Let’s get into why they’re important.
By now, we’ve talked about a couple of the ways a blog post can communicate with Google: with headers, keywords, and snippets. However, that’s not an exhaustive list.
Meta descriptions is another method Google leverages when ranking search results. Meta descriptions are the 1-3 sentence descriptions you’ll find underneath the title of a result.
Use meta descriptions to sum up what your post is about. Remember to keep it short, use keywords, and make sure it’s engaging. After all, there are going to be loads of posts similar to yours, aiming to rank at #1. You’re going to want yours to stand out above the rest.
Most blogging software have meta description boxes built into the toolbar or post formatting options, so you won’t have to look far to use the function. HubSpot and WordPress, for example, point out where to add meta descriptions in the post editor.
5. Add alt text to images.
With any image you add to your post — whether it be the featured image or a body text one — you’ll want to add alt text. Alt text describes what’s happening in the photo. Think of it as a closed caption for images.
Alt text helps Google, as well as those who are visually impaired, understand why the photo is in your post. This improves your article’s rank and accessibility, making it more shareable.
For instance, if you include an infographic about audience segmentation, the alt text should read something like, “A helpful infographic that explains audience segmentation.” Notice how this sentence uses keywords to appeal to Google even further.
Now let’s say you’re using a stock image as a featured photo, but it doesn’t necessarily depict anything that relates to your post’s content. For instance, let’s say your topic is click-through rate, and this is your featured image:
This doesn’t really have anything to do with audience segments, right? But what you can do to remedy the situation is to make a scenario. For instance, “A marketing team discusses audience segmentation strategy.”
This alt text uses keywords to describe a situation that fits into the theme of the post. That way, your image doesn’t bring down the ranking of your post, but works towards improving where it ranks. If Google sees alt text, it’s another box checked for a high position on SERPs.
6. Don’t limit keywords to the body of your post.
Ultimately, keywords should be used in nearly every part of your blog. We’ve talked a little about where keywords can be included in your post: snippets, photos, and headers, for example.
Keywords are so powerful because they’re the jumping off point for SERPs. Google will always take what browsers type into the search bar and search for web pages with those exact words. So it’s important to make sure every element, from the post title, to the calls-to-action, relate to your keywords.
That said, it’s also important not to keyword stuff your post. The goal is to make your page fully optimized, not overbearing. Find natural fits for keyword additions, but don’t force them so your content is illegible.
For example, if your keywords are “account based marketing,” “startups,” and “sales,” your meta description shouldn’t be something like:
“Sales for account based marketing startups.”
Instead, try focusing on one or two phrases to make the description more natural:
“Are you looking for killer strategies to boost your account-based marketing game? Find out our surefire secrets in this post.”
That way, you’re still using keywords, but you’re not oversaturating the post to the point where it’s illegible. Remember, even though Google is a search engine, it still has to comprehend your post in order to recommend it to website browsers. Additionally, a reader’s experience will determine how well your posts rank. If readers bounce from your webpage because it’s confusing to them, that will signal to Google that your post isn’t good enough to rank.
7. Identify highly-effective keywords when looking for post ideas.
Google handles over 40,000 search queries a second. Staggering, right? If you want to cut through search result clutter and outrank your competitors, you need to target the specific keywords and phrases your potential customers are searching. How else will they find your content and website?
To identify those hot keywords, head on over to the social platforms your target audience frequents and see what’s trending. Pay close attention to the exact phrases they use and monitor popular industry terms and topics.
Google Trends can also give you a feel for what keywords are popular at any given time. If you see searches are steadily declining over time for a specific keyword, you know that’s probably not the right keyword to target for your marketing and vice versa for increasing trends.
If you’re ever running low on keyword ideas, get inspiration from your competition. Use tools to see what keywords they’re currently ranking for — if these keywords are relevant to your business, consider using them too! SEMRush lets you enter a competitor and see the keywords they’re ranking for, their position in search results, traffic received for that keyword and other key metrics.
Keep in mind that the most obvious keywords aren’t always the best keywords. Searchers tend to use very specific “long-tail” keywords, keyword phrases and questions when they’re looking for something.
Long-tail keywords comprise up to 70% of all search traffic and can unlock the door to successful SEO. When WPBeginner, the largest WordPress resource site for WordPress beginners, adopted a long-tail SEO strategy, they increased their organic search traffic by 20% in just two months!
Because you face fierce competition for shorter, more general keywords, you often have a better chance of ranking in the top results for long-tail keywords. And, long-tail keywords allow you to zero in on higher quality website traffic that often knows what they’re looking for and may be farther along in the buyer’s journey.
Once you’ve done your research and built a list of what you think are the most valuable, relevant keywords, plug them into a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, Ubersuggest, Keyword Tool and so on. Many keyword research tools give you the monthly volume for any given keyword. Test out different keyword tools — marketers are drawn to different ones for different reasons.
Depending on your business or industry (or budget or bandwidth for SEO efforts), it may be important to rank for high competition, short tail keywords. Still, try to also optimize for a healthy dose of long-tail keywords that are high in search volume but low in competition. You may find it’s much easier to rank for these words.
Remember that your focus keywords will evolve over time as trends shift, terminology changes or your product/service line changes. Be sure to conduct keyword research periodically to ensure you’re still focusing on the right keywords for your target audience and not missing out on vital ranking opportunities.
8. Naturally integrate those keywords throughout your posts.
Once you’ve decided on a list of target keywords, it’s time to write a blog post focused on one of these keywords. Brainstorm blog topics with your team and decide on a topic that will entice and engage your target audience.
Keep your buyer personas, their motivations, challenges, interests, etc. in mind throughout the brainstorming process. Choose a topic that will emotionally resonate with your potential customers and their needs, desires or pains.
As you write your blog, your keyword and natural variations should be regularly interspersed throughout the post. Your primary keyword should appear in these key places:
- Headings and subheadings
- URL if possible
- Image alt text (search engines can’t read images)
- Meta description
- Throughout the content
Remember that you’re writing for humans, not search engines. Focus on engaging readers with a natural writing style that takes their needs and interests into account.
9. Link to influential websites.
As you build out your blog post, don’t be afraid to link to other articles or blogs.
Linking to applicable and reputable websites not only offers blog readers additional reading material to expand their knowledge, but it also shows Google and other search engines that you’ve done your research. And the blogger or writer may even return the favor and link to your site.
Nothing strengthens a blog post like hard-to-argue-with, research-backed statistics from influential websites. Compelling stats help you build a more convincing and concrete argument that will get your readers thinking (especially when they’re from trustworthy sites they know and love).
10. Aim for scannable, longer posts.
In an age of short attention spans (average of 8 seconds for humans), you would think shorter blog posts are the way to go. But search engines actually prefer longer, in-depth blog posts.
The longer your blog post, the greater its chance of appearing in the top search engine results. SerpIQ found that the 10th position pages have 400 fewer words than 1st position pages. Longer posts will rank more easily for your target keyword.
Think about it: the more content on the page, the more clues search engines have to figure out what your blog is about. We recommend writing a minimum of 300 words per blog post. This length gives search engines plenty of keywords and text to crawl and helps them understand what your blog is about.
The downside to longer blogs is that they may scare off your readers. We live in a world of skimmers and scanners. In a heat map analysis, CoSchedule learned that only 10-20% of their readers were making it to the bottom of their posts. So, the million dollar question is, how can longer blog posts appeal to today’s online readers?
You can write scannable, readable blog posts that hook online readers by tightening up your sentences and paragraphs. Turn a long-winded sentence into two. Keep your paragraphs to 2-3 sentences max.
Also, take full advantage of bulleted lists and subheadings that grab reader’s attention. By following these tactics, you’ll create blogs that are easier to read (especially on a mobile device!) and less intimidating to the scanner’s eye.
11. Internally link words or phrases to other posts on your site.
Linking to other pages or blog posts on your website helps search engines crawl your website and create a more accurate sitemap. It also helps your audience discover more of your content and get to know you as a trustworthy, credible source of information.
Internal links to other valuable content keep users on your site longer, reducing bounce rate and increasing your potential for a conversion (and isn’t that what it’s all about?).
When linking to any pages on your website, or even outside sources, use natural language for your anchor text. Avoid using spammy or generic text such as “top-rated cheap laptops” or “click here.”
Instead, use descriptive keywords that give readers a sense of what they will find when they click on the hyperlink, such as a search engine optimization guide.
Never force feed links to your top webpages, featured products or discounted items. These types of links will only turn off readers and could lead to search engines penalizing your website.
A word of caution: don’t overdo your internal linking or any linking. We know it’s tempting to link to all of your blogs and webpages, but only choose the ones that best enhance the point or insight you’re writing about in any particular blog. Always think about whether or not these links naturally tie in with the subject matter and if they will offer significant value to your readers.
12. Optimize pictures for the fastest possible page speed.
Google rewards pages with faster page speed and places those that lag lower on its rankings. So, it’s important to make sure your page-load times are as quick as possible.
One of the leading culprits of page lag is large photos. If the photo you uploaded is too big, it will make the page take a longer time to load — even if the image doesn’t seem huge on screen. Luckily, you can keep your posts visually interesting without sacrificing crucial speed.
Once you pick a photo, use a free compression software, like Squoosh.app to make it as small as it can go before it loses any quality. Any removal of excess photo data will speed up loading times so readers won’t have to wait.
If you suspect that your SEO issues are related to low page speeds, Google offers a free tool that can score your page and give you suggestions for speed improvement. Here’s a guide on how to use it and boost your score.
7. Preform link building strategies.
Traffic from places other than Google is crucial to your search rankings. Why? Think of search results like a competition where the winners get the most votes. Each webpage that links back to you is considered a “vote” for your website, which makes your content more trustworthy in the eyes of Google. In turn, this will make you rise farther up on search results.
So, it’s good to write posts that other websites or publications will want to hyperlink within their own posts. You can also write posts on other business’ websites that link back to your website in some way.
To make your website’s blogpost more linkable, include valuable assets or information, such as your own data, original thoughts, infographics, definitions, or other facts that people might not find anywhere else.
Here’s an example of how this mindset could help you. If you write a post titled “How to Make a Video Tutorial,” or “13 Stats about Video Tutorials,” bigger sites that are writing about something similar might hyperlink words like “video tutorials” or “research from [Your Company Name]” to your post so they can give their reader more context without repeating your work.
Once you’ve written the post, you might want to start sending it to other publications or websites that might want to discuss it or link it to their other posts. This outreach lets other publications know of the post and might also help you grow link building alliances with them in the future.
You can also consider doing promotion, such as interviews or guest posts that link to your website’s blog post to further encourage link building.
These strategies can be key to your SEO success, but they can be time consuming. To help you, consider trying out one of these softwares.
How to Title Blog Posts for SEO
Even with a great, SEO-friendly post body, a bad title could hurt you in search engines. To title your post with SEO in mind, draft a clear understandable title that both shows the reader what they’re about to read and integrates the keywords you identified in the first step. As mentioned above, write something that pleases Google’s ranking algorithms, but is also understandable and enticing to humans.
Here are a few examples:
- If you’re a beauty blogger and you see that people are searching “how to wear matte lipstick,” your post could be titled, “How to Wear Matte Lipstick: A 5-Step Guide.”
- On the other hand, if your blog covers artificial intelligence and you see that people are searching a new AI app, you could write a blog post called “How to Use [Insert AI App Name],” or “We Tried the New [Insert App Name] App: Here’s What Happened”
- If you blog about farming or sustainability and find out that “what to buy at farm stands” is a regular search, you might write a listicle titled “What to Buy at Farm Stands This Summer.”
You know how to write content audiences will love. Now, it’s time to write for what Google loves. SEO only heightens the chance of your post getting seen by the right audiences, expanding your reach.
It can sound tricky at first, writing for two audiences, but just remember these takeaways: keywords, snippets, and descriptions. Learning a new language takes time, but luckily, your blogging software can likely remind you of these SEO tips. I can’t wait to see your next blog post at the top of my search results.