Blogging for SEO is pretty much a no brainer. Publishing regular blog posts gives you opportunities to target a large number of long-tail keywords, keeps people on your website longer, and gives other websites something to link back to.
Getting your blog up and producing content for it are both important steps, but you can make that work go much further for your SEO efforts by taking a few extra steps to optimize your blog posts for SEO.
Below we will dive into how blogging helps SEO and how you can maximize the SEO value of your blog posts:
Does Blogging Really Help SEO?
Yes, it does. That’s the simple answer. But having a blog isn’t in and of itself a ranking factor.
Blogging is good for SEO because it helps with a number of things that are important ranking factors. When you have a blog that’s updated regularly with blog posts that are high quality and on topics relevant to your audience, it can make a huge difference to how your overall website performs in the search engines.
There are six main reasons why.
1. Blogging keeps your website fresh and current.
If you ever happen upon a website that you realize hasn’t been updated in years, you probably immediately lose some trust in the information you’re seeing. The company it represents could have gone out of business completely or the website could be providing information that’s been completely debunked or changed since that last update.
Google doesn’t want to deliver its searchers outdated information. Websites that are regularly updated signal to them that the website is alive and offering fresh content. It also gives the search engine algorithms more reason to index your website more often, keeping it more on their radar over time.
You’re probably not going to have reason to update your homepage frequently (and it wouldn’t necessarily be a good business move to do so), so a blog is a more practical tool for adding new content to your website on a regular basis.
2. A blog keeps people on your website for longer.
Google’s number one priority is providing the people performing searches with the information they’re looking for, so they’ll keep coming back to use Google again. If someone who does a search clicks on the first link, then finds it unhelpful and immediately leaves to go back to the search page – that tells Google that the first result wasn’t as helpful as they thought. On the other hand, when someone clicks on a result and stays on the website for a while, that signals to Google that this website is actually very helpful.
While Google hasn’t said outright that dwell time, or the time that people spend on your website once they land on it, is definitely a ranking factor, they’ve made other statements that make it clear it’s something they pay attention to and impart value to.
Someone who comes to your website from a blog post that shows up in the search results is going to have more reason to stick around for a while and read the whole thing than someone who lands on a page with less text or information.
And that becomes even more the case with longer, more comprehensive posts. SEO researchers have found that longform blog posts tend to perform better than shorter ones – the average first-page result on Google is nearly 2,000 words long.
3. Blogging helps you target long-tail keywords.
A lot of people start out doing SEO wanting to aim for the most relevant keywords for your business. For example, if you sell camping gear, you want to show up on page one for the term “camping gear.”
While that’s a nice goal, unless you’re the biggest camping gear brand in the country, you’re probably going to have a hard time landing a top spot for that search. SEO is really competitive. The best bet for most brands is to look for longer, more specific keywords people are searching for that are relevant to the business and try to rank for those.
These are called long-tail keywords and they’re extremely important for any SEO strategy – half of all searches are for terms that are four words or longer. But they can be awkward to try to fit into your product pages. However, they’re the perfect kind of terms to target in a blog post. A store that sells camping gear can use their blog posts to provide information on terms like “best camping gear for cold weather” or “what do you need when you go car camping?”
These searches don’t attract as much traffic as “camping gear” does, but they come from people clearly in your target audience of campers and, if you can make it onto page one, you’ll get way more traffic from these topics than you would on page five or ten for broader more popular terms.
4. A blog gives you opportunities for internal linking.
So much of SEO is about links and internal links are the easiest ones for you to get since you can create them for yourself. Failing to include internal links on your website that point users from one page on the site to another is one of the simplest SEO mistakes you can make.
While you can probably find some good internal linking possibilities on the main pages of your website, once you start publishing blog posts, the opportunities will really blossom. As you add more pages on various but related topics, you add more opportunities to naturally link those pages to each other.
Every time you do so, you can strategically use the anchor text to better tell Google what the page you’re linking to is about – strengthening its connection to your target keywords in how the algorithm sees it.
5. A quality blog gives others sites more reasons to link back to your site.
Those internal links matter, but the hardest part of SEO is earning external links. For Google to see your website as trustworthy and authoritative, other sites (and respected ones) have to link back to yours. It’s not impossible to get external links without a blog, but it’s much, much harder.
When you write a blog you fill your website with page after page of valuable information. Any time another website decides it’s valuable to their readers to point them to useful information on a different site, there’s a far higher likelihood that your website will provide that information that’s worth linking to if you’ve got a bunch of great blog posts.
Research bears this out. HubSpot has found that companies that have a blog on their website earn up to 97% more inbound links. It just makes sense that more websites will link to that really helpful post you wrote about how to find the best Mother’s Day gift for a picky mom than to your homepage.
6. A blog helps you connect with your audience.
This isn’t a direct linking factor like links are, but it is something that significantly contributes to linking factors. When your audience reads a post they love, they’re more likely to share it, drive more traffic to it, come back to your website again to see more of your content and maybe even sign up for your email list. When you get lots of traffic and repeat visitors, that shows Google that people like your website and raises your authority level in their algorithm.
And while that’s pretty great from an SEO perspective, it’s ultimately more important to the success of your website than where you are in the rankings. People in your target audience visiting your website, connecting with it, and becoming regular followers is more valuable than any #1 spot on Google (that’s the whole reason you want the spot in Google to begin with).
A blog is a good way to make those connections and start a continued relationship with the people you want to reach.
How to Optimize Your Blog Posts for SEO
1. Do Keyword Research.
Keyword research should be one of the first steps you take in developing a blog strategy for SEO because it helps you figure out the types of topics your audience is interested in. For each blog post you write, it’s smart to have a primary keyword or two in mind, along with a few similar or related secondary keywords.
You’ll want to use these in the post where relevant, but only when it makes natural sense to do so. Don’t ever try to force a keyword in where it doesn’t work –the search engines frown on keyword stuffing and you could be penalized. And with Google’s use of latent semantic indexing (LSI), it’s less important than it used to be to use exact keywords in lieu of synonyms or similar terms. But having those keywords in mind and using them as you write is still worth it, as long as you don’t go overboard.
A couple of useful tips for doing blogging keyword research:
- Go for long-tail keywords – One or two-word phrases are often very competitive and hard to rank for, so relevant longer phrases or questions are more worth your time. As an example, targeting a broad keyword like “seo” in a blog post makes less sense than getting more specific, like “small business local seo.”
- Think about voice search. As more people use Siri and Alexa, optimizing your content for voice search becomes more important. And since voice search is a newer development in SEO that not all businesses are thinking about, it’s a good way to be competitive.
2. Check for Rich Results in the SERP.
Once you have your target keywords in mind, head to Google and do some searches for them. Many types of searches now include rich results on the search engine results page (SERP).
If a search for your target keyword produces a featured snippet above the organic results, or if many of the organic results include images, video thumbnails, or other rich information, then you want to make sure you’re optimizing your content to compete for those things.
In some cases, that means adding schema markup to your webpage. In others, it means changing the way you structure your content to try to compete for the featured snippet. Either way, you need to know what you’re competing for and against in order to create the right kind of content to be competitive.
3. Choose Your Post Title Well.
One of the main parts of the page the search engines pay attention to in trying to understand what the page is about is the title. That makes it an important opportunity for you to communicate your topic by using your primary target keyword.
Make sure you include it in a way that makes sense. If you shoehorn it in so that it’s confusing for your human readers, the lack of clicks you get will hurt your SEO chances more than use of the keyword will help them. But since your post will be covering the topic of your keyword, finding a natural way to include it shouldn’t be too difficult.
4. Include the Keyword in Your URL.
The page URL is another important place to include your target keyword. It’s another part of the page search engines look at to figure out how to understand what the page is and, as such, is an important ranking factor.
Always customize the URL before publishing. A blog post on how to find good winter boots should therefore have a URL like www.shoewebsite.com/blog/winter-boots.
5. Optimize Your Headings.
You may be sensing a theme here. Your page headings are another part of the page that search engines give weight to in figuring out what your page is about. That means that, once again, you want to look for opportunities to (naturally) include your keywords in the page heading. That includes anything that has a <h1>, <h2>, or <h3> tag on the page.
Headings are often a good place for those secondary keywords you have in mind, since it probably won’t make sense to use your primary keyword in every heading on the page.
6. Use Your Image Text.
Another page element that search engines pay attention to is the text behind your images. The name of your image (e.g. keyword.jpg) and the alt text you can fill in are two more places you can include your primary keyword on the page.
7. Use Relevant Internal Links.
Links are easily one of the most important ranking signals for the search engine algorithms. Getting other websites to link to yours is a challenge, but you have the power to do as much relevant internal linking on your own site as possible.
Each time you write a new post, think about any blog posts you’ve already published that are relevant to what you’re writing now. Wherever it makes sense to do so, add in those links and, if you can do so naturally, use anchor text that relates to your target keyword for the older post you’re linking to.
8. Write a Meta Description.
While meta descriptions don’t affect how your website ranks, they do influence what people see when they’re browsing their options on the search engine results page. If they’re trying to decide between a few links on the page, a strong description that uses the keywords they searched for (which show up in bold on the SERP) could make the difference in their choosing to click on yours.
Google will display up to around 300 characters on the SERP in the description field, so figure out how to describe what’s on your page (using your target keyword) within a couple of lines here.
9. Link Your New Post to Old Posts.
For all the same reasons you look for opportunities to add old links from your blog to new posts, you should periodically review your old posts to look for opportunities to link to posts that were published later.
One way you can do this is by doing a search of your own site for the target keyword of each new post you create. When you find uses of that keyword or similar terms in your old posts, you can add in a link to the new.
10. Choose Tags and Categories Strategically.
Blogs allow you to create tags and categories that help you group related posts together. This is both a useful navigational aid for people browsing your blog and a tool you can use strategically for SEO. Every category or tag you use creates a new page that will include the name of the tag or category in the URL, along with a lot of relevant content and links on the page.
As with keyword stuffing, you don’t want to overdo it here and create tons of tags with similar keywords, but you should think carefully about which keywords and tags will be the most valuable to readers and for your SEO strategy.
Come up with a list of a few based on the most important keywords you want to rank for, but making sure they each represent different types of topics (e.g. don’t have categories for synonyms or slight variations on terms) and use them whenever they’re relevant to what you’ve written.
Optimize Every Blog Post for SEO
Your blog is one of your most important and powerful SEO tools. Every blog post you publish presents a number of opportunities to strengthen your website’s search authority. Don’t waste any opportunity you have to use your posts to their fullest SEO potential.
Did we miss any blogging for SEO tips? Let us know in the comments below!
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.