I’ve been asked by a couple of my clients recently how they can improve their blog posts and news articles to help with their search engine optimisation efforts. At first glance it can seem like a juggling act trying to please the search engines and the people actually reading your site – I’m sure you’ve been on sites where the copy has clearly been written for search engines and makes little to no sense to you, the user. This is actually counter productive – sites like this may get a good ranking initially, but if no-one sticks around when they land there, rankings will soon drop and conversions will be zero. Here are 10 ways you can improve your blog posts…

1. Write with your human reader in mind

This may seem obvious however search engine algorithms have semantic functionality which means they can recognise the topic of a page and categorise it accordingly. When you write for a human reader you will naturally include a range of words and phrases around your subject matter and this is what helps the search engine to establish its topic. This leads nicely on to number two…

2. Don’t stuff your article with one keyword phrase

No matter how many times I say this, I still see blog posts being published where the designated keyword phrase appears every other sentence. Not only are posts like this horrible to read but they won’t do you any good with search engines either. In fact engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing can recognise these poorly disguised attempts to cheat results and will likely just ignore your page completely. I recommend using your main keyword phrase in the first sentence of your article and then once or twice more – one of those instances being in the last paragraph.

3. Include some of your other keyword phrases

If you’re working on SEO then it’s safe to assume you have a keyword list that you’re working on to improve your rankings (if you haven’t you need to go back a few stages in your SEO strategy!). When you’re writing your posts, pepper a few of these other keywords throughout… only if it makes sense to the topic you’re writing about of course!

4. Use your main keywords in your titles and sub-titles

Most websites are programmed to attribute either an h1 or h2 tag to your article headlines – this is a bit of code put around certain bits of content that signifies to the search engines that the content is important. You can quickly see why it makes sense to weave the main keywords of your article into the headline and then some related terms in to your sub-headlines. If you’re using WordPress, you don’t need to do anything with your titles to make this happen however when you add subtitles within the body copy highlight them with your mouse and then attribute an h2 tag to them by selecting it from the drop down in the WYSIWYG editing screen (the first option is Paragraph).

5. Add your keywords to the META title and description

If you’re using a blogging platform like WordPress this is very easy to do. Firstly, make sure you have the All in One SEO Pack plug-in installed. This will add a section under your editing screen in the admin area where you can easily input these bits of content. The META title is what appears at the top of your browser window when you land on any given page and the search engines attribute some importance to the contents of this. The META description is what Google will typically (but not always) use to show on the search engine results pages (SERPs). So make sure you add your keyword phrase in the title and description – your description also need to give searchers an idea of what your page is about and entice them to click. As a rough guide your META title should be 60 characters or less and your description 160 or less.

6. Make your post long enough

Long enough means having enough words to cover your subject matter adequately bearing your human readers in mind. If you follow this rule you should always have enough content to satisfy Google too – that’s a bit woolly I know so I recommend aiming for a minimum of 250 words.

7. Don’t self-promote

Google in particular doesn’t go in for self-promotion on blogs so keep your articles unbiased in terms of your products/services – that includes your company name! Do keep any promotional content in a designated area of your side bar.

8. Link your keywords

As you progress your search engine ranking strategy you will likely start to build keyword optimised landing pages for your key phrases, when you reach this stage begin to link the keyword phrase within your articles back to the relevant landing page.

9. Make your content useful

Optimising your content alone is not enough to get you a ranking for your keywords. A big part of search optimisation is inbound link-building and this is perhaps an aspect often overlooked when writing blog articles. Google and other search engines see an inbound link as a ‘vote’ for your content as being useful and therefore award it more weight. When you write useful and informative content people will want to share it on social media sites like delicious, face-book and twitter providing you with these much needed links.

10. Include outbound links

Some of my best ranking and most trafficked posts actually contain links to other sites and articles – I have to admit this wasn’t by design but you can benefit from my happy accident! One of these posts was a list of agencies in Leeds that included outbound links to their websites -  so find 10 things related to your area of authority and publish a ‘list’ post with links; it could be helpful tutorials, websites your customers may find useful or even books related to your field of expertise. The other type of post I’ve found works well is to use extracts of an interesting article you’ve read somewhere else and add your own thoughts and comments around it – make sure you attribute the original source properly and provide a link back to it though.

And here’s a bonus one…

11. Publish regularly and often

If you write four blog posts per month it’s far better for your SEO efforts if you publish them once a week than to upload them all at once. If you’re using WordPress, upload them all into your admin area and use the schedule function to publish them automatically so you don’t forget.

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