Modern Blogging and SEO: Writing for People and Robots
It’s an indisputable fact that the web has become a source of business development for both business- and consumer-facing businesses. A big part of that is the advent of the search engine, primarily Google, but also Bing and Yahoo as well.
Having a blog is crucial to developing business and staying relevant online. Blogs allow you to answer low and even mid-level questions, educating potential buyers without actually having to speak with them. Most blog content is evergreen, meaning that it remains relevant even after publication. This means you can continue to market to and cultivate new prospects over time at no additional cost.
Sounds great right? Take some burden off the sales team by developing business in a place you already know your audience is? Everyone must be doing it.
Well, they are. So how to get your blog content found?
Unless your website is wildly popular (most business websites aren’t) it likely isn’t a destination. The next best thing to do is rank in search engines for search terms related to your products and services
Everyone makes SEO (Search Engine Optimization) out to be this big complicated, impossible-to-figure-out thing. For the most part they are right. It’s pretty incredible what companies like Google and Yahoo put into their algorithms and updates. Much like of the wizard behind the curtain in the “Wizard of Oz,” they are big and all-powerful but we have little clue as to how they do it.
Even will all that, if you do a few basic things right and no what will hurt you, you can maintain and improve SEO without having to spend a lot of time or money.
SEO Wants to Be Your Friend
SEO and blogging go hand-in-hand. One of the best ways to improve your rank over time is consistently updating your website with blog posts. The more blog posts you have, the more opportunity you have to nurture prospects. It’s a win-win.
Whether you’re a talented writer or not, Google doesn’t necessarily care. At the same time, you need to be able to write so that people can understand what you have to say quickly. So the trick is to write in a way that makes it easy for both people and search engines to read.
But what does that mean?
Search engines have little (metaphorical) bots that crawl the searchable web. These bots look for things like properly structured blog posts, inbound links and engagement and interaction with visitors on your website. They then communicate what they find back to the search engine, which determines page authority and page rank.
It’s important to know what these little bots look for and how they look for it. If you structure your blog posts poorly then your domain could actually be penalized. Read the horror stories, coming back from search engine penalization is no easy feat.
So what do these little bots look for in a blog post?
How To Properly Structure a Blog Post
Luckily writing for both people and search engines also go hand-in-hand. A properly structured blog post is easy to read for a search engine as well as a human. You just have to keep in mind a few off-page items when outlining your article. Off page simply means the HTML code for a page (this is what bots crawl).
Known off-page as the “h1 tag” or “title tag” is probably the most important factor in search engine ranking. Keep it concise (max 60 characters) and absolutely make sure it includes the focus keyword(s) for the post. Crafting a title that is concise and contains keywords increases likelihood your blog post will receive click-through’s on a search engine.
Keywords are the terms you want to rank for. They can be short tail (1 word) or long tail (2+ words). In any blog post you should choose a focus keyword and make sure it is include in:
Page URL (link to the blog post)
In the Post Body (1-2 keyword mentions per 100 words is a good rule of thumb)
Your focus keyword absolutely has to be in these 3 places for every blog post to receive favorable rankings. Avoid using more than one focus keyword. If a keyword is used too often you can be penalized for “keyword stuffing”. It also makes the article difficult to read.
Common Myth: The meta data description for a blog post is factored in page rank.
The meta data description is the short text snippet that Google displays in search results. While this description is important to the chance someone clicks-through to your website, it doesn’t affect page rank.
If you can’t fit the focus keyword here it won’t hurt you. If anything try to work in a long-tail phrase you want to be found for here. Google will highlight any matching keywords from a search in the meta data, making them more visible to the person searching.
A prime example of how search engines and blogging work well together is in the use of headings. Reading articles that aren’t broken up into sections can be tedious. Many times articles without subheadings are often skipped over completely by a searcher.
Subheadings, known as h2 tags off-page, break up an article, making it easier for someone skimming it to find the information they need quickly. Rarely does anyone read through an entire blog article, and yours won’t be any different.
Subheadings also give you the opportunity to focus on other keywords in your blog post. h2 tags carry less weight in overall ranking factors but can still help SEO. When outlining the article, draft subheadings to include a few additional keywords (outside of the focus keyword). It wouldn’t hurt to use the focus keyword again, but sometimes it’s better to diversify a little.
Please note that simply bolding text and separating it out from paragraphs does not constitute an h2 tag. It has to be denoted in the page HTML.
Other important elements to keep in mind when writing include:
Internal links: links to other pages on your website.
Demonstrates validity and relevance on your website
Increases chances of keeping traffic on your site longer
Inbound links: Links from other websites to your website
Demonstrates validity and relevance from others
Can wonders for page authority and thus Page Rank
Social media interaction: be sure to distribute blog posts on social media
How social engagement affects page rank is a bit of a gray area
Facebook and Bing are integrated
Google+ and soon Twitter will be integrated with Google