One of the reasons that I wrote my corporate blogging book a decade ago was to help the audience leverage blogging for search engine marketing. Search is still unlike any other medium because the search user is showing intent as they are seeking information or researching their next purchase.
Optimizing a blog and the content within each post is not as simple as just throwing some keywords into the mix… there are quite a few tips and tricks you can utilize to optimize the post and fully leverage every blog post.
Overall Optimization of Every Page
I'm going to assume that your content management system is fully optimized, and that your blog is fast and mobile responsive. Here are 10 elements that matter when your site is crawled and indexed by a search engine… as well as elements that will engage your reader:
- Page Title – By far, the most important element of your page is the title tag. Learn how to optimize your title tags and you'll increase the ranking and click-through rate to your blog posts in the search engine result pages (SERPs) significantly. Keep it under 70 characters. Be sure to also include a robust meta description for the page – under 156 characters.
- Post Slug – the URL segment that represents your post is called a post slug and can be edited in most blogging platforms. Changing longer post slugs into short, keyword-centric slugs rather than having long, confusing post slugs will increase your click-through rate in the search engine result pages (SERPs) and make your content easier to share. Search engine users are getting far more verbose in their searches, so don't be afraid to use how, what, who, where, when, and why in your slugs to enhance the slug.
- Post Title – While your page title can be optimized for search, your post title in an h1 or h2 tag can be a compelling title that draws attention and attracts more clicks. By using a heading tag, you're letting the search engine know it's a critical section of the content. Some blogging platforms make the page title and post title the same. If they do, you don't have an option. If they don't, though, you can take advantage of both!
- Sharing – enabling the ability for visitors to share your content will get you far more visitors than leaving it to chance. Each of the social sites has their own social sharing buttons that don't require multiple steps or logins… make it easy to share your content and visitors will share it. If you're on WordPress, you can also use a tool like Jetpack to automatically publish your articles out any number of social channels.
- Imagery – a picture is worth a thousand words. Providing an image or video in your post feeds the senses and makes your content much more powerful. As your content is shared, images will be shared with it across social sites… choose your images wisely and always insert the alternative text with an optimized description. Utilizing a great post thumbnail and the appropriate social and feed plugins will increase the likelihood that people will click through when shared.
- Content – Keep your content as brief as possible to get your point across. Utilize bulleted points, subheadings, bold and italicized text to help people scan the content easier and help search engines understand the key words and phrases you wish to be found for. Learn how to utilize keywords effectively.
- Author Profile – Having your author information provides a personal touch to your posts. People want to read posts from people… anonymity doesn't serve the audience well on blogs. As well, author names build authority and social sharing of the information. If I read a great post, I often follow the individual on Twitter… and then I read additional content that they publish.
- Comments – Comments enhance the content on the page with additional relevant content. They also provide an opportunity for your audience to engage with your brand or company. We've abandoned most of the third-party plugins and opted in just for the WordPress default – which is integrated into their Mobile apps, making it easy to respond and approve.
- Call To Action – Now that you have the reader on your blog, what do you want them to do? Would you like them to subscribe? Register for a download? Attend a demonstration of your software? Optimization of your blog post isn't complete unless you have a path for the reader to engage deeper with your company.
- Categories and Tags – Sometimes search engine visitors click through but don't find what they're looking for. Having other posts listed that are relevant can provide deeper engagement with the visitor and avoid them bouncing. Have plenty of options for the visitor to stay and engage more! You can help this by ensuring you have a discreet amount of categories, trying to assign each post to a minimum of them. For tags, you'll want to do the opposite – trying to add tags for keyword combinations that may drive people to the post. Tags don't help with SEO in as much as internal search and related posts.
Before I Publish Each Blog Post
The majority of these critical elements are all set up and automated with the installation and configuration of your blogging platform. Once I spend time on the content, I do go through some quick steps to optimize my posts, though:
- Title – I try to connect with the reader and create a sense of curiosity so they click through. I speak directly to them with you or your!
- Featured Image – I always try to find a unique and compelling image for the post. Images should reinforce the message visually.
- Hierarchy – Visitors are scanning before they read, so I try to utilize subheadings, bulleted lists, numbered lists, block quotes, and images effectively so they can drill into the information they need.
- Post Slug – I try to keep under 5 words and highly relevant to the topic. This makes sharing easier and the link more compelling.
- Visuals – I often search Youtube for professional videos to share and use as many images as I can. I rename the images effectively using dashes, which helps for images searches and page optimization. Note my featured image for this post is blog-post-checklist.png.
- Links – I always try to include links to relevant posts within my content so the reader can drill down for more information.
- Category – I try to only select 1 or 2. We do have some in-depth posts that cover more but I try to keep the target highly targeted.
- Tags – I make mentions of people, brands and product names that I'm writing about. Additionally, I'll do research on keyword combinations people might use to search for the post.
- Meta Description – That little description under the title and link to your post on a search engine results page can be controlled by a meta description. Take the time and write a really compelling description that drives curiosity and tells the search user why they should click through to your article.
- Grammar and Spelling – There are few articles I publish that I don't shake my head in embarrassment as I read days later or get a comment back from a reader on the stupid grammatical or spelling error I made. I try to verify every post with Grammarly to save myself… you should, too!
After I Publish Each Blog Post
Promotion – I make sure I promote the posts I write in every channel and every opportunity, personalizing the preview and tagging people, hashtags, or sites that I mention.
Tools like Agorapulse can come in very handy to easily schedule out promotion of each article. Some articles are so popular that I schedule out a tweet every month, event announcements I schedule right up to an event, and other posts I repeat once in a while as it makes sense. It's an incredible tool that makes my life so much easier. Here's how much it enables my social media engagement… month to date:
Disclosure: I'm a proud brand ambassador for Agorapulse!