Search engine optimization is incredibly important for marketers. When you optimize your web pages — including your blog posts — you’re making your website more visible to people who are looking for keywords associated with your brand, product, or service via search engines like Google. But it can be a pretty tricky tactic to master with Google’s copious algorithm updates.
These are the most important things to remember according to HubSpot:
- Focus on 1–2 long-tail keywords.
Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Turns out that’ll actually hurt your SEO because search engines will think you’re keyword stuffing (i.e., including your keywords as much as possible with the sole purpose of gaining ranking in organic search).
But that’s not cool with search engines, nor does it make for a very good reader experience. Instead, you should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.
A good rule of thumb is to focus on one or two keywords per blog post. This’ll help keep you focused on a goal for your post. While you can use more than one keyword in a single post, keep the focus of the post narrow enough to allow you to spend time actually optimizing for just one or two keywords.
- Include these 1–2 keywords in specific parts of your post.
Now that you’ve got your one or two keywords, it’s time to incorporate them into your blog post. Where are the best parts of your posts to include these terms so you rank high in search results?
There are four essential places where you should try to include your keywords: headline, headers and body, URL, and meta description.
The title (i.e., headline) of your blog post will be a search engine’s and reader’s first step in determining the relevancy of your content, so including a keyword here is vital.
Be sure to include your keyword within the first 65 characters of your headline, which is just about where Google cuts it off on search engine results pages (SERPs). Technically, Google measures by pixel width, not character count, and it recently increased the pixel width for organic search results from approximately 500 pixels to approximately 600 pixels, which translates into around 65 characters.
- Headers & Body
Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers. That means including your keywords in your copy, but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don’t go overboard at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing. Before you start writing a new blog post, you’ll probably think about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s a smart idea, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, nor even your primary focus.
Whenever you create content, your primary focus should be on what matters to your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword or keyword phrase in that content. Focus on being helpful and answering whatever question your customer might have asked to arrive on your post.
Search engines also look to your URL to figure out what your post is about, and it’s one of the first things it’ll crawl on a page. You have a huge opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every post lives on its own unique URL — so make sure you include your one to two keywords in it.
- Meta Description
Later in this post, we’ll dive into explaining meta descriptions. Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post’s content — so be certain to use your long-tail term so Google and your audience are clear on your post’s content. At the same time, keep in mind that the copy matters a great deal for click rates — the more engaging, the better.
- Make sure your blog is mobile-friendly.
It’s been over a year since Google revealed that more people use the search engine on their mobile phones than on desktop. And for all those valuable search queries being done on mobile, Google displays the mobile-friendly results first. This is yet another example of Google heavily favoring mobile-friendly websites, which has been true ever since the algorithm updates of April 2015 and March 2016.
While responsive design and mobile-friendly websites have always been important for user experience, they’re becoming more and more important for SEO as well. So if you haven’t been focusing on improving your mobile experience, you’d better prioritize it now, or your search rankings could suffer.
- Optimize the meta description.
To review, a meta description is the additional text that appears in SERPs that lets readers know what the link is about. The meta description gives searchers information they need to determine whether or not your content is what they’re looking for, and ultimately helps them decide if they’ll click or not.
In addition to being reader-friendly (compelling and relevant), your meta description should include the long-tail keyword you are trying to rank for, because if we’re doing blogging right, that keyword is representative of the contents of your post.
- Optimize your images.
Blog posts shouldn’t only contain text — you should also include images that help explain your content. But search engines don’t just look for images. Rather, they look for images with alt text.
Because search engines can’t “see” images the same way humans can, an image’s alt text tells them what an image is about — which ultimately helps those images be found in search. Alt text also makes for a better user experience, as it’ll display inside the image container when an image can’t be found or displayed, and can also improve accessibility for people with poor vision who are using screen readers.
Technically, alt text is an attribute that can be added to an image tag in HTML. Here’s what a complete image tag might look like (bolding added for emphasis):
Adding keywords to your alt text may seem minor — and it isn’t going to impact your search rankings as much as other things on this list. But it is worth the extra minute it takes to change the name from “IMG23940” to something accurate and descriptive.
- Don’t use too many similar topic tags.
Topic tags can help organize your blog content, but if you overuse them, they can actually be harmful. If you have too many similar tags, you may get penalized by search engines for having duplicate content.
Think of it this way: When you create a topic tag, you also create a new site page where the content from those topic tags will appear. If you use too many similar tags for the same content, it then appears to search engines as if you’re showing the content multiple times throughout your website. For example, topic tags like “blogging,” “blog,” and “blog posts” are too similar to one another to be used on the same post.
If you’re worried that your current blog posts have too many similar tags, take some time in the near future to clear them up. Choose about 15–25 topic tags that you think are important to your blog and that aren’t too similar to each other, and then only tag your posts with those keywords. That way, you won’t have to worry about duplicate content.
- Use URL structures that help your visitors.
The URL structure of your web pages (which are different from the specific URLs of your posts) should make it easy for your visitors to understand the structure of your website and the content they’re about to see. Search engines favor web page URLs that make it easier for them and website visitors to understand the content on the page.
- Link internally when possible.
Inbound links to your content help show search engines the validity or relevancy of your content. The same goes for linking internally to other pages on your website. If you’ve written about a topic that’s mentioned in your blog post on another blog post, ebook, or web page, it’s a best practice to link to that page.
- Use Google’s Search Console.
Google’s free Search Console contains a section called the Search Analytics Report. This report helps you analyze clicks from Google Search, and it’s useful to determine which keywords people are using to find your blog content.
A lot of content marketers struggle with optimizing their blog posts for search. The truth is, your blog posts won’t start ranking immediately. It takes time to build up search authority. But when you publish blog posts frequently and consistently optimize them for search while maintaining a reader-friendly experience, you’ll reap the rewards in the form of traffic and leads long-term.