SEO 101: How to Write SEO Friendly Blog Posts

  Inbound Marketing | Content Marketing
Derek Kinzer
Derek Kinzer

12.17.2019 | 7 min read

Let's face it, cracking the "SEO code" continues to get more complicated as Google updates its search algorithm. So, if you're life's work isn't dedicated to being an SEO guru, like Brian Dean of Backlinko, or Rand Fishkin (formerly of Moz) at Sparktoro, then what are the basic SEO strategies you need to know when writing SEO friendly content?

We're going to cover the four basics needed to write an SEO friendly blog post so that your content has a better chance of being found in search.

Four Basics of SEO Friendly Blog Posts

  1. Content Relevance and User Intent
  2. Heading, Subheading, Meta Description and Title Tag
  3. Linking and Readability
  4. Avoiding SEO Penalties
  5. *Bonus: SEO Review Checklist*

What Does "SEO Friendly" Mean?

Let's take a step back and get the 30,000-foot view for a minute. 

What is your goal for blogging? Is it safe to assume that part of the goal is 1) creating valuable content for your audience and 2) increasing website traffic (which in turn should result in more revenue)? 

If it's not, maybe it should be?  

The point is that your audience is typing up questions in their preferred search engine (likely Google, Bing or Duck Duck Go) and seeking answers. You know you have the answers to help them, but how are you going to make sure they find the solution from you instead of a competitor? 

There's a long list of SEO best practices that range from baseline 101 to advanced mad scientist. For your blog content to have a fighting chance, you'll need to make sure you meet these four basics so that Google deems it "friendly" to their search engine. 

 

 

1. Content Relevance and User Intent

Marketers ruin everything. Am I right? 

Early on, it was all about the quantity of content you could produce. Bloggers would crank out as many 500- to 800-word articles as they could about a topic because it was new territory. 

People were searching, but nothing was to be found. So, if you wrote enough content early on, you would experience high organic traffic numbers. 

Fast forward to today, keyword stuffing can be detected, and Google's algorithm is sophisticated enough to capture the intent of a query and the relevance of the result. Therefore, writing quality content is of utmost importance. 

Let's think about Google real quick. 

Their main goal is to provide users with the most relevant search result as fast as they can. 

Why wouldn't we want to do the same? 

Example: You search for "how to do keyword research?" 

The search engine results page (SERP) provides several articles about keyword research, so you click on the first one only to find a fluffy article that is just a promoting a fancy research tool that requires a monthly subscription. 

Not helpful.

This, in turn, creates a poor user experience that Google would like to avoid. So, that article will start to decrease in rankings, while more robust, quality content wins because it satisfies the relevancy and intent. 

Takeaway: Think about the user's intent of a search. Put yourself in their shoes and write high-quality content that they'll find valuable. That will position you as an expert worth trusting, and they'll know who to come back to next time.

 

 

2. Heading, Subheading, Meta Description and Title Tag

Warning: this is about to get really practical.

Headings and Subheadings: Gurus like Yoast (if you haven't tried it yet, their Wordpress plugin is a solid starting point for SEO tips and strategy) describe headlines in SEO as "signposts" for the reader. They allow readers to easily keep track of their place while also improving accessibility. If your article is easy to read, the user will be happy, which makes Google happy. 

More technically speaking, headlines follow a specific HTML structure. The format starts with header 1 (h1 tag) and goes down to subheadings 2 - 6.

Think of your h1 tag as the title. There can only be one! This precedes each h2 tag, which you can think of as chapters in your book. The h3 tag is a specific topic section. And lastly, anything from h4 - h6 typically wouldn't be appropriate unless your article really did turn into the length of a book (not recommended). 

Example:

  • <h1> Coffee Is Better Than Tea
    • <h2> Why We Think Coffee Is Better Than Tea
      • <h3> The smell of fresh coffee
      • <h3> Going to coffee shops
      • <h3> The taste of coffee
    • <h2> Different Ways of Making Coffee
      • <h3> Espresso
      • <h3> Pour over
      • <h3> French press

You get the idea. And if you think tea is better than coffee, please don't be offended by our hypothetical example (but you're wrong).

Meta Description: This is a short, 155 character snippet that describes what the user can expect to get from the content on the page. The search engine displays this summary directly underneath the page link. You encounter it every day (see below). 

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 3.38.43 PM

 

In short, the meta description is what causes someone searching on Google to actually click your link. 

Here are a few things to consider when writing your meta description:

  • Use the 155 characters allotted. Try not to go over!
  • Include your main keyword in the description. 
  • Don't forget to include a call to action.
  • Make sure the description aligns with the content on the webpage. Remember, Google desires a positive user experience. So if your description isn't accurate or leads the user in the wrong direction, that's problematic. 

Title Tag:  The actual title of the page. This is what the user will see first, so you'll want to make sure it's 1) using the target keyword and 2) clear and compelling.

*Bonus: Alt tags*: This is like the game-changing cheat code you had in early childhood that gave you a clear advantage. Then you told your friends, and it leveled the playing field! 

A crucial part of SEO that often gets overlooked is optimizing media like images and videos. 

The alt tag, or alt text, is a description of what the image is. The main reason for this is because of screen readers, which is a tool used for the visually impaired. They scan the page and read the content for the user, including the images. 

So, when writing an alt tag, be sure to describe what the image is. Use keywords appropriately, and with context (keyword stuffing is still a bad idea; don't try it here). 

 

 

3. Linking and Readability

Link Juice and Domain Authority 

Links are a crucial piece of the puzzle that you can't afford to overlook. 

What was formerly known as "link juice" is now known as Link Equity (I still prefer link juice though). It's a search engine factor based on the theory that links pass authority from one page to another. 

When we say authority, we're referencing Domain Authority (DA). This metric was created by Moz to show the ranking power of a domain on a scale of 0 - 100. Think of this metric as your website's reputation according to Google. 

For example, a brand new website will have a domain authority of 0. Google doesn't know yet if you're trustworthy or if the content on your site is credible. 

A website like forbes.com, for example, has a DA of 95! 

So you may be wondering, "how do I improve my Domain Authority?" 

Great question. We'll cover some of that below, but first, you should measure your current Domain Authority with this free Moz tool.  

Internal Linking and External Links

Internal: Internal linking is relatively simple and honestly could be one of the more underrated tactics. In each post, add three to five links to older posts. It's that easy. 

And don't forget to go back through your related older posts and find a fitting place to link to your new ones!

External: External links are hyperlinks that link to another source, or when someone else links to you (a.k.a. "backlink"). Remember earlier when we referenced other people talking about you or referencing your reputation? This is the tricky part. 

Here's what top SEO experts like Moz say about external links. "They are the most important source for ranking power. Unlike internal linking, external links are valued more because search engines consider them to be third-party votes."

According to Niel Patel, the smartest way to get more links to your website are:

  • Create authoritative, useful and trustworthy content
  • Improve the strength and popularity of the brand
  • Continually advertise, promote and get PR
  • Promote good website content and be sure it gets in front of the right audience

And if you're looking for a secret vault of tactics to use, we'd recommend watching all 14 minutes of Brian Dean's link building strategy on BacklinkoTV.

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 3.41.32 PM

 

Takeaways: 1) Internal linking should be a standard part of your search engine optimization strategy. 2) Writing quality content that earns reputable backlinks will drastically impact your ranking power.  

Readability

Your piece of content should be skimmable. 

No, this doesn't mean boring. Skimmable is referencing how easy it is for the user to navigate your content to find the information they're looking for.

Scanning content is the norm. Even if it's the most compelling piece, the average reader will only read 20%-28% of the content. Yikes!

So, it's more important than ever to format your content in a scan-ready layout. Here's how you can improve that skimmable factor:

  1. Bold highlights grab the reader's attention. Highlight important takeaways that should standout and use italics to emphasize or create conversation. 
  2. Short paragraphs help the reader advance through the content quicker. Who doesn't like that feeling? 
  3. Bullet points and lists create easy-to-read information, as opposed to long paragraphs. Think Cat in the Hat vs. an advanced quantum physics textbook. 

 

 

4. Avoiding SEO Penalties 

Search engines have rules. Whether they are written rules, loose guidelines, or law, the reality is that you have to play the game if you want to win. 

Common penalties can include surface-level issues like site speed, bounce rate, image sizes and duplicate header tags, as well as more complicated and technical aspects about your backend website structure and sitemap.

Thankfully, there are a variety of tools and technology that will help guide you through this process so that you aren't unknowingly penalized for "rules" you didn't know you were breaking. 

Helpful tools:

  • Light House Audit: Google Chrome's Lighthouse Report diagnoses precisely what you need to know about how your website is performing. Here's how to run a Lighthouse Report. 
  • SEMRush: this powerful tool gives you the ability to run several reports and audits to better understand the performance of your current SEO efforts and how to improve. 
  • Moz: this keyword tool helps you pinpoint your keyword strategy, as well as the long-tail keywords and related keywords needed to bolster your content. 
  • Yoast SEO plugin for Wordpress: This plugin guides you through your on-page SEO strategy. It's simple and incredibly accurate. 

Oh, one more thing to consider...

Mobile.

Optimizing content for the mobile experience is now a baseline. More content is viewed via mobile than desktop these days. So, if your content doesn't have a positive user experience, Google will devalue (a.k.a. penalize) the content. 

If Google is devaluing the content, then your content is far less likely to appear in a search! 

 

 

5. *Bonus SEO checklist*

All of this can get overwhelming quickly, so we'll share the checklist we go through for the content we produce. 

This isn't the only way, but it is a way that has helped drastically improve our organic traffic this year. 

Give it a try!

Outline: confirm and fill out the following at the top of the page

  • {Title of Blog Post}
  • {Primary Keyword}, (search volume | competition)
  • {Secondary Keyword}, (search volume | competition)
  • {Word Count} Target Range

Make sure the title is evergreen appropriate

Some examples of evergreen titles are:

  • How to...
  • All About...
  • The Ten Things You Need...
  • The Comprehensive List...

Ensure structure follows proper evergreen content formatting

Primary Keyword/ Secondary Keyword

  • Ensure the primary key phrase is in the title, first paragraph and last paragraph.
  • Outside of title, first paragraph and last paragraph (explicitly reserved for primary keywords), integrate secondary keywords into the body of the text.
  • Keyword density - make sure to use the primary keyword throughout the page. The number of times isn’t important, but consistent and applicable use of it is crucial. And don't stuff, just use it where it fits naturally.

Writing quality content to increase traffic isn't as cut and dry as it was long ago. Search engines change quickly, and more factors than ever before are required in a strong SEO strategy. 

At Lone Fir Creative, we can help with that. Let's talk. Schedule a strategy session today, and we'll help you get where you want to go.

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Derek Kinzer

Derek Kinzer

Sr. Strategist | Think Tank Operative