7 Simple SEO Blog Writing Tips to Win Over Readers and Search Engines
Blog writing has changed. Focus on writing quality content for humans, and you'll attract search engine attention as a bonus. Here are seven SEO blog writing tips that show you how.
Optimizing for people first, then SEO.
In the beginning, most SEO blog writing tips focused on keywords. How to pick them. Where to put them. Because B2B marketers who use blogs get 67 percent more leads, and websites with blogs have 434 percent more indexed pages. And back then, a successful blog meant targeting popular keywords.
But it’s different now. Writers’ priorities have shifted away from simply stuffing convoluted keyword phrases into a blog post. Now it’s about writing for people. Keywords are only a springboard, a starting point, not the end goal.
Here are some steps to help you prioritize writing for humans over writing for search engines.
SEO blog writing tips for today
The first step in any writing exercise is overcoming the blank page. Nothing is more intimidating to a writer than facing an empty word document. You can sit there forever deciding where or how to start.
That’s why you should have a plan of attack. Here’s a brief set of steps on how to attack that blank page.
#1. Create a sandbox to play in.
Many writers hate cluttering their draft document with notes, links, quotes, etc. To free up your mind and give it room to play and explore, create a separate document—a sandbox. This is where you can compile resources, stats, important quotes, and links. This is where you can fine tune your topic, research different angles you could take, and decide on your unique approach.
I start my sandbox with three sections:
- Possible keywords
- Target keyword
For possible keywords, I run searches on various websites (Keyword Planner and Moz explorer usually). This is where you can see what terms people use, what topics they look for. Specifically, you want to look at what questions they’re asking.
If you don’t have access to these tools, then just pull up Google and use the autofill function and see what comes up in the search box. Or run a search and scroll to the bottom of the first search engine result page (SERP) and check out the suggestions at the bottom.
Grab any possible search terms that stand out and include them under possible keywords. Gather all that you can. Be greedy. At this part of the process, be open to different kinds of topics and terms. It’s okay to wander from your original topic to see what’s out there.
Once you’ve looked through all the possible keywords, winnow them down to one target keyword and plug that into your document. Try for a keyword phrase, or long-tail keyword. Something three or four words long, if possible.
If you want to leave the title blank at this point, that’s fine. I usually try to whip up something as a placeholder. A safe bet is this formula: [Number] + [Adjective] + [Noun/Keyword] + [Goal]. For example, this post’s title: 7 Simple SEO Blog Writing Tips to Win Over Readers and Search Engines.
You can always update the title later, depending on the direction your research takes. But once you pick your target keyword, stay on—well . . . target.
#2. Rustle up the top ten.
Next, it’s research time! Unless you’ve got a study or source, start with a simple Google search. Run a search using your favorites from the possible keyword list. Seeing the number and quality of the search results can sometimes help you decide which will become your target keyword.
From the SERP, pull up each of the top ten results in new tabs, and mine those articles for information. If you need more information, you can always go to the next page. But what might work better is to refine your search. Add terms like “top ten,” “how to,” “best ways to,” and so on.
Many writers enjoy this part of the process the most. Delving into information and learning more about a topic really brings it to life. But you’ve also got to know when to apply the brakes and recognize when you’ve gathered enough research. Then it’s time to refine what you’ve collected.
#3. Build your blog post outline.
At this point, you look through your research and find the points you want to write about. With most blogs, this is a list of tips or dos and don’ts. I look for trends and words of advice that pop up among several trusted sources. If they have solid statistics to back them, even better.
Also, be on the lookout for outliers. These are points, tips, or background information that aren’t widely cited in your sources, but they make sense to you or seem valuable.
From these highlights, go back to the space under your title section and write out an outline. Start with your list of tips.
Then create a header for the intro. Think of this as a subheader for your title. You probably want to avoid using your keyword phrase here because it’ll sound redundant right after your title.
Then create a header that leads into your list. This could possibly include your targeted keyword phrase. Then write a brief paragraph that leads into the list.
With all the paragraphs in your post, vary the size. Some long, some short—most of them short. This prevents your readers’ eyes from growing fatigued. Big blocks of texts makes your article look like a textbook when it should come across as a conversation.
Finally, write a header for your conclusion. It helps to make it playful or poignant.
This is where you’ll want to sum up your points and transition into your download offer. Hopefully by this point you’ve won enough goodwill from the reader that they don’t resent the offer. It might also help to phrase the download as another resource on the same topic.
#4. Put meat on the bone.
With your headers written down, now you’re ready to go and fill in the blanks. Review the resources, links, and lists in your sandbox document. Cut and paste pertinent statements and stats to the appropriate sections so you can draw from them.
Approach each section beneath a header as a mini-article. Make your main point and provide supporting evidence for each. Flesh out thoughts with your take. Sometimes this will require a paragraph to cover, sometimes more. Don’t worry if one section goes longer than the others.
There are several studies that analyze how long a blog post should be. The Yoast WordPress plugin recommends that, bare minimum, your blog post should hit over 300 words. A survey of top-ranking Google content found that these resources typical had 1,140 to 1,285 words. HubSpot found that the best posts on average require around seven minutes to read. That’s between 2,000 and 2,500 words.
The best advice here is not to worry about word counts while you write. Don’t check your overall word count until you’re finished with the rough draft. Simply do your best to provide a mix of helpful context and actionable insights. In most cases, a thorough handling of any subject matter will typically run well over 1,000 words.
The word count you ought to check throughout your writing process is sentence length. Shorter sentences, typically around 20 words, will keep you from unwittingly unleashing a long, confusing sentence on the reader.
If a sentence runs longer than 20 words, look at the ideas the sentence includes. Try to decide where you could split them up. Sometimes a sentence needs to run long, but make sure they’re few and far between.
#5. Add internal and outbound links.
A successful blog post becomes a crossroads where readers can find the best sources and information on your topic. You make that happen by including a healthy combination of links to content both on and off your website.
Search for the best sources. Not all links are created equal, and some could hurt your site’s domain score. If you’re citing statistics to back your points, make sure you find primary sources. If those aren’t available, then reputable publications that use the stat are an alternative.
#6. Get a second pair of eyes to look at your post.
Experienced writers know that their posts are like their children: we don’t always see the blemishes others spot immediately. Our eyes slide right over an obvious typo, or we’ll think a transition between two topics was clear when it wasn’t.
Bring someone on board, usually a co-worker or a fellow writer. Ask them to read through your piece and that any feedback is welcome. If necessary, ask them to also tell you what you’re doing right in the article, not just what needs fixing. Naturally you want to fix typos in your piece and identify any weaknesses in your writing. But equally valuable is recognizing what you do well and where you really nailed it in the blog post.
#7. Fill in all meta data.
You’re not done posting to a blog until you’ve filled in the meta description. Also, don’t forget the alt tags for images, and formatting all headers and links. With any links, make sure they open to a new tab so readers won’t automatically navigate away from your blog post.
Write for humans and the search engines will follow.
In the film Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character hears a mysterious voice that promises, “If you build it, he will come.” If asked to sum up current SEO blog writing tips, the mysterious voice would probably whisper, “If you write for humans, search engines will come.” So, make sure you have your priorities straight before you start drafting that blog post.
Blog posts are only one way you communicate with your customers. Other methods include email, phone calls, chat, conferencing, and more. But too many people aren’t familiar with the do’s and don’ts of these communication media. To help, we created the Bible of Business Communications. Download it today!