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Google doesn’t want to deliver its searchers outdated information.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.
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.
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!
SEO (search engine optimization) involves a lot of different parts. For busy business owners that know SEO is important (you’ve sure heard it enough times), it can be tempting to skip some of the smaller steps involved in on-site SEO.
But every little thing you can do to strengthen your website’s SEO makes a difference — especially if it’s something other sites may be overlooking.
Taking time to optimize your images for SEO is a simple and important step to making your website more competitive in the search engines. It’s the kind of little thing many businesses let slip through the cracks, which is precisely why doing it can give you a competitive advantage in snagging your target keywords in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
And as with many SEO best practices, most steps involved in image SEO also improve the visitor experience. So the work you put into it won’t just increase the chances people can find your site, it will also mean they like it more once they’re on it.
What You'll Learn...
- Does Blogging Really Help SEO?
- 1. Blogging keeps your website fresh and current.
- 2. A blog keeps people on your website for longer.
- 3. Blogging helps you target long-tail keywords.
- 4. A blog gives you opportunities for internal linking.
- 5. A quality blog gives others sites more reasons to link back to your site.
- 6. A blog helps you connect with your audience.
- How to Optimize Your Blog Posts for SEO
- 1. Do Keyword Research.
- 2. Check for Rich Results in the SERP.
- 3. Choose Your Post Title Well.
- 4. Include the Keyword in Your URL.
- 5. Optimize Your Headings.
- 6. Use Your Image Text.
- 7. Use Relevant Internal Links.
- 8. Write a Meta Description.
- 9. Link Your New Post to Old Posts.
- 10. Choose Tags and Categories Strategically.
- Optimize Every Blog Post for SEO
- Why Images Are Important for SEO
- 12 Tips to Improve Your SEO for Images
- 1. Use relevant, high-quality images.
- 2. Customize the filename.
- 3. Use alt text.
- 4. Add image captions.
- 5. Reduce the image file size.
- 6. Find the right quality-to-size ratio.
- 7. Choose the right file type.
- 8. Add images to your sitemap.
- 9. Use responsive images.
- 10. Use lazy loading.
- 11. Use schema for products and recipes, where relevant.
- 12. Host images on your own site.
- Make the Time for Image SEO
Why Images Are Important for SEO
So much of how we understand SEO is all about text and keywords, but images have a role to play as well. For one thing, they’re a huge part of the user experience.
Think about it: if you found yourself on a webpage that looked like a Word doc with nothing but text on a white background, you wouldn’t feel like the website was trustworthy or memorable.
Over the years, researchers have conducted studies that confirm visuals help people process information faster and remember it more effectively. That means images can make your website content more powerful and engaging.
Images are a big part of how we experience a web page. That matters for SEO because Google’s algorithm pays attention to behavioral metrics that reflect user experience, like bounce rates and the amount of time visitors spend on a web page.
And images can also be optimized to more directly boost SEO as well. Where most visitors to your page will only see the image itself, search engine crawlers see text behind the image that you can fill in to tell them what you want them to see.
12 Tips to Improve Your SEO for Images
Follow these tips to optimize the images on your website for search engines.
1. Use relevant, high-quality images.
This is crucial for the user experience side of SEO. An image that’s unrelated to the content on the page will be confusing for the user, and one that’s blurry or badly cropped will just make your page look bad and unprofessional. Make sure every image you use has a clear relationship to what’s on the page and looks good.
You have to be careful not to use any images that you don’t have the rights to, but you can find lots of resources online that provide free images businesses can use. And DIY design tools like Canva now make creating original graphics affordable, fast, and easy, even for non-designers.
Commit some time for each page you create and blog post you publish to figuring out at least one good image to include – bonus points if you can find a few.
2. Customize the filename.
This is one of those steps that’s so easy it’s amazing everyone doesn’t do it.
Before you add an image to your website, take time to customize the filename. Change it to something that’s relevant to the image and, if possible, includes one of your target keywords for the page. For example, if your web page is about a backpack product you sell, the image could be named something like brandname-backpack.jpg.
Most visitors will never see the filename, but it gives you a way to provide the search engines a little more information about what’s on the page and the best keywords to associate with it.
3. Use alt text.
This is another part of the webpage that most visitors won’t see, but search engine crawlers do. You can provide alt text for every image you add to your website that will show up in place of your image if a browser has trouble loading it or if a visitor uses a screen reader.
This text is one more part of the page that you can use to signal to search engines what the page is about. Always update the alt text for your images. Include your primary keyword for the page and something descriptive of the image itself. If you use WordPress, there’s an alt text field you can fill in to do this.
If you prefer to use HTML, you can add alt=”your alt text” to your image tag.
Alt text is useful for SEO but, just as importantly, it’s a good way to improve your website’s accessibility. So those few minutes you take to give your SEO a boost can also make your website’s experience more inclusive for visitors.
Captions are yet another text field you have the option to include for each image on your website, but this time it’s one that your visitors can see. When it makes sense, use the caption field to add an explanation of the image or to provide further information about it to the viewer.
Image captions can potentially be one more opportunity to include your target keyword on the page, but don’t force it. Only include a caption if there’s a natural way to do so that won’t take away from the visitor’s experience.
Adding captions is a good idea in general, but there’s not one clear rule for how best to use them. In some cases, captions can be a good opportunity to add a little personality or insert a joke. If that improves the user experience more than adding in your keyword would improve your SEO, then it’s the better option. Use your best judgment here.
5. Reduce the image file size.
You do the hard work of finding or creating an image, the next step is to load it to your site, right? Not quite yet.
Often, the file size of an image is much larger than it needs to be for the size it will show up on your website. Taking a few seconds before you load it to reduce the file size can ensure it won’t slow your website down. Site speed is an SEO ranking factor, so if your visitors have to wait a while for a page on your site to load, it’s bad for the user experience and your SEO.
If you use a CMS like WordPress, resizing how an image appears on your website after you load it to the CMS is super easy – but it means that you still have the large file size that slows things down on the backend.
You can make your website faster while still displaying images at a high resolution by resizing your image files before you load them to your website. Often this is easy to do with programs that come standard on most computers, like Mac’s Preview program or Microsoft Paint. Or if you have Adobe Photoshop, you can use the “Save for Web” command to help you find the smallest file size that still provides a good resolution.
6. Find the right quality-to-size ratio.
This part’s a little tricky, because you want your images to look really good (see: the “high quality” part of #1), but you don’t want them to be big enough to slow down your website.
So as you go through the steps above, keep an eye out to make sure your image doesn’t suddenly become blurry or start to show up so small that you can’t tell what it is.
Test out every image on your website on multiple types of devices and screen sizes to make sure it still looks OK even after you’ve reduced the size. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the happy medium between file size and visual quality.
7. Choose the right file type.
You’ve probably noticed that there are three main types of image files, but you may not really understand the difference between each. Understanding the different file types can help you choose the best one for your needs:
- JPG is one of the most common file formats because it uses small file sizes and is widely supported. But the image quality isn’t always as good as with PNG files and the format doesn’t support transparent backgrounds, so there are some cases where JPG won’t work.
- PNG is a file format for images that provides a high resolution and can support a text description of the image that’s good for SEO. The main downside of PNG is that it tends to require larger file sizes than JPG and GIF. It’s often best for complex images and those that include text.
- GIF doesn’t support as wide of a color range as the other two, but it can be a good choice for simpler images. It supports small file sizes and transparent backgrounds.
For photos, JPG often works well. For designed graphics, GIF and PNG are more common and if you need a higher quality version, the PNG is the way to go.
8. Add images to your sitemap.
Google encourages website owners to submit a sitemap to them to help them better crawl your pages and get them added to the index. They also allow you to include images in your sitemap or alternately, create a separate image sitemap to submit.
If you use WordPress, there are plugins you can use to generate an image sitemap for you, such as Google XML Sitemap for Images and Undira All Image Sitemap. If you prefer to do it yourself, Google provides information on creating an image sitemap here.
By giving Google clear information about the images on your website, you increase the likelihood of them showing up in Google Image Search, which increases your website’s overall findability.
9. Use responsive images.
By now, you’ve probably heard all about responsive websites. Going responsive is the best way to make sure your website looks good on all device types, no matter the screen size, while making sure all users see the same information. Using responsive images is part of that.
When you add an image to your website, you can make it responsive by using the HTML code srcset. This lets browsers know to select the image file size that makes the most sense for the screen size the user is on automatically and load that. It’s a super convenient tool that takes care of responsive sizing for you, so you don’t need to worry about it.
If you heard “HTML code” and basically started to tune out, don’t worry. If your website runs on WordPress, the CMS takes care of this for you. As long as you’re using WordPress 4.4 or later (which you definitely should be by now), your images will automatically have the srcset code applied without you having to do anything.
10. Use lazy loading.
Being lazy isn’t always a bad thing, and definitely not when you’re talking about lazy loading.
Lazy loading is a technique that can increase your website loading speed by having your website wait to load the images lower on the page last. Visitors won’t be stuck waiting to see any content while their browser tries to load everything on the entire page, instead they can start to see the most important page elements and trust the rest will load by the time they get there.
This tactic can be especially useful for websites that have long pages. If seeing the full page on your site requires a lot of scrolling, then why should visitors have to wait for images way down at the bottom of the page to load before they can read the text at the top?
If you use WordPress, the easiest way to implement lazy loading is with a plugin. Lazy loading is one of many features included in the JetPack plugin if you want to go that route. Or you can consider one that just provides lazy loading, like a3 Lazy Load or Lazy Load.
11. Use schema for products and recipes, where relevant.
Schema markup is one more tool you have for telling Google what’s on a page. For certain types of content, it provides search engines with data that helps them serve up useful information to searchers right on the SERP.
When you search for a recipe or product and see star ratings, calories, pricing, or inventory information next to the result in Google, that’s because the website uses schema markup.
Schema markup is only relevant for some types of content, but if your website includes those types of content, then it’s a smart way to further optimize your site. Using the relevant schema markup can potentially make some of your pages more noticeable in search results by including your image alongside the result. And within Image search, Google will often use schema to display a badge in the results telling users what type of content the image is for.
12. Host images on your own site.
While it may be tempting to host your image on a third-party website like Imgur to save space, doing so involves a real risk. Anytime those sites are overloaded with traffic, your images could fail to load, creating a confusing experience on your website and making your brand look bad.
You’ll be better served by hosting the images on your own website and using the advice provided above to make your image file size smaller so they don’t slow down your web pages any more than necessary. And when you go with a reliable hosting provider, you’ll always know your images (and the rest of your website) will show up as they should for your visitors.
Make the Time for Image SEO
Image SEO is relatively easy, as far as SEO goes. By committing a little extra time to find the right images and optimize them for search every time you add a page to your website, you can give your pages an extra edge in the search engines.
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.