We’re often asked by business owners for some simple, no-cost tips to optimise their blog posts for search engines. In this two-part post, Reedsmore’s senior consultant Rob Taylor takes you through ten crucial steps to help you ensure that search engines discover, rank and drive quality traffic to your posts.
1. Set Your Working Title
The title of your post is the first thing that influences whether readers decide to visit your site and read your post. It’s also the a key factor in how search engines decide where to rank your content for relevant search terms. So it’s important that title of your post accurately represents its content.
As anyone who’s ever written a blog post will know, you don’t always end up at your intended destination. That’s okay, but this is why we’re not going to spend very long on creating a kickass title at this stage. For now, just use a basic description of what you intend to write as a working title while you draft your post. We’ll come back to it again when you’ve finished drafting your content to ensure it’s a perfect fit when you finally hit Publish.
2. Create Some Great Content
“Well, duh!” I hear you say. And you’re right, creating great content is easier said than done. Yet there are plenty of people and posts advising exactly this and leaving it there, as if creating valuable and relevant content was as easy as snapping your fingers. But every business blogger knows that it isn’t.
There’s a mountain of stuff we could cover here as we examine what makes great content great. So for simplicity and brevity, let’s look at three key characteristics of search engine-friendly blog posts.
Reading a blog post should be like having a snack, not eating a three-course meal. Resist the urge to try and tell the world everything you know about a subject in a single post. Instead, aim for a length of between 300 and 800 words. If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry: In reality, you’ll more often find yourself running over than under.
If you do have a few thousand words to write on a particular topic, that’s great, but your blog is not the place for it all. Instead, write a whitepaper that users can download. If you have tens of thousands of words, publish a book.
Rather than giving readers everything you know, your blog post should be a gateway to your readers taking some kind of action. So don’t be afraid to overtly prompt them to learn more by signing up to your newsletter, downloading your whitepaper, buying your book, or simply contacting you, particularly if you are a knowledge-based business.
Content needs to be well-written to be taken seriously by readers and therefore by Google. Spellcheck is useful but won’t flag up when you’ve used the wrong word. No matter how good a writer you think you are, you should always get a second pair of eyes to check that you haven’t recommended that your readers consult a barista for legal advice.
If your content is useful (see point 3), relevant, easily readable and contains at least 300 words, it will have keywords and phrases flowing naturally throughout your post.
Write for humans, not machines, and don’t be tempted to shoehorn multiple target keywords and phrases into your writing. These are outdated techniques that will have a negative effect on your post’s SEO.
3. Be Useful
“Be useful” are the two most universally important keywords that every business blogger needs to remember. If your post isn’t useful to your readers, it’s just self-serving guff. Nobody wants to read that (except for you and your mum) so Google won’t rank it highly in search results.
Similarly, if your post is just a selection of high-traffic keywords and phrases you want to target, peppered with a few other words to string them together, that’s of literally no use to anyone. This kind of trick might have worked back in 1998, but search engines now are older and smarter and have seen it all before. Attempts to game the system like this will only backfire.
Take care not to disappear up your own fundament by being persistently self-congratulatory, or posting internal achievements to your external audience. This sort of thing makes for easy content but your customers really don’t care about Maureen’s promotion. Stories like these aren’t usesless, but are best reserved for internal comms. Journalists might be interested, but only if you’re a publicly listed company and Maureen has been promoted to CEO.
What About Press Releases?
You should certainly post press releases to your blog as these can help Google understand more deeply what your business does and who your target audience is. But remember that press releases are of niche interest to journalists rather than to your customers. So don’t expect press releases to deliver a huge spike in traffic.
4. Do Not Attempt To Be Funny
Unless you are a professional comedian, I guarantee that nobody is coming to your website to be amused. Instead, they are coming to you as a source of useful and expert information. A dash of humour can have its place in even the most sombre of professions, so there’s no need to avoid it altogether. But if you ever find yourself writing a post purely because you think it will be funny, or having to type the words, But seriously… stop immediately and find something useful to write about instead.
Alternatively, if you do have something genuinely hilarious to write, quit your job and become a comedian. Your boss and colleagues will be absolutely delighted.
5. Include a Call to Action
As a business blogger, the ultimate goal of every post you write is to sell a product or service to your audience. Your posts shouldn’t be an overt sales pitch (point 3 again) but they should pave the way for customers to choose to buy from you. If you don’t follow your quality content by telling them how they can buy from you, they won’t. So always include a clear call to action and a link or button for interested customers to follow up on what they have learned. Something like this:
If you’re having trouble with anything mentioned in this post, such as finding the time to blog or relevant topics to write about, Reedsmore can help. Get in touch today and we’ll be delighted to arrange a call to discuss your needs.
In Part Two…
In Part One we’ve taken a brief look at the essentials of creating useful content. In Part Two we’ll take a look at how to present your posts for optimal search engine success.