These Blog SEO strategies known as search engine optimization can help your blog rank on Google’s Search Engines for a particular keyword or topic searches (queries) on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. This is ‘Blog SEO’ for beginners.
Some of you will blog purely to share on social media channels or run paid ads. Some of you have a desire to rank on Google and other search engines. Ranking on Google is a result of many best practices which this blog will cover.
While the Ballen Blogger website is for all bloggers, this article is for those of you that want to rank on Google.
My Name is Lori Ballen and I’m a blogger. I’ve been building blogs and websites with a focus to rank on the search engines since AOL said: “You’ve Got Mail”. Yes, AOL was the original search engine followed strongly by Yahoo and then Google. At least that’s how it was for me. As a result of my SEO strategies, I often gain traffic, clients, and sales by ranking on a search engine.
I’m passionate about SEO, blogging, and the power of great content. And even now, SEO is still a major focus of mine and Google, along with search engines like Youtube, and Pinterest still drive a substantial amount of traffic to my blog posts, web pages, and videos.
- What Doesn’t Work
- BLOG SEO for 2020
- EAT: Expertise, Authority, Trust
- On-Page SEO
- Transition Words
- Schema Markup
- Google Search Console
- SEO Tools
What Doesn’t Work
I’ll start with what doesn’t work so I can help keep you out of trouble with the search engines. What doesn’t work will not only, not work, but can get your blog pretty much shut down on Google’s search results pages (SERP). Therefore, it’s a great idea to focus on what does work and avoid what doesn’t.
Here’s what won’t work today:
- Blogging frequently with thin, non-specialized content
- Keyword Stuffing
- Hiring Writers to post generic content
- Paying for or trading backlinks
- Counting on Exact Match domains to rank a blog
- Large blocks of text which cause the user to leave because it’s too hard to read
BLOG SEO for 2020
- Creating quality content
- Using On-Page and Off-Page SEO Strategies
- Long-form Content
- Specialized Content
- Niche focused, on-topic blogs
- A strong, earned-in backlink profile
- Creating a brand that people search for by name
- Image optimization
- Using semantically related keywords
- The use of assets and tools such as a calculator
- The use of media such as video and sound bites
- Using Heading Tags Correctly
- Appropriate Keyword Density (not too much, not too little)
- Schema Markup
- A Strong Internal linking strategy
- Focus on Long-tail keywords. Example: -> Blog (head term), -> WordPress Blog -> How to Design a WordPress Blog [Long-tail]. Focus on ranking for thee long-tail keyword topics.
- A page that easily flows with short sentences, white space, images, videos, quotes, bullet points, slight changes in font, separators, and dividers, and anything that helps the eyes flow from one section to another.
- Submit your sitemap XML file to Google Search Console
Search Engines are packed now with content. Google’s focus today is to return the most relevant page to a visitor when they perform a search on their search engine. This is, after all, the only way Google can remain the #1 search engine.
Google’s desire to return the most relevant response means that it tests and measures each page as well as how the visitor uses the page. Metrics such as user interactions, bounce rate, and dwell time (how long they remain on the page and website) are measured to help determine a quality experience for the web visitor.
For example, if someone types in a search for APPLE, It’s Google’s job to return the right kind of Apple to that visitor. Do they want the fruit or the technology?
Personalized search allows Google to return a specific SERP (search engine results page) to a specific person based on their search history while logged into a google product such as gmail, Chrome, or any other log-in that uses Google.
That is to say that Google learns the behavior of the user and personalizes results catered to that searcher.
Jeff, a 40-year-old male, that is focused on fitness, performs a query using the keyword “Bike”. Based on the browser history of his computer, iPad, and a mobile phone that shows him reading articles on hiking, social media posts that feature him on a boat in Alaska, and videos he has watched on male fitness returns mountain bikes as top results on his search engine results page.
a mother of 3 elementary school-age children, who is often using her computer to find things to do for the kids, uses a keyword search for the word “Bike” and sees kids bicycles or articles such as “how to teach your son to ride a bike” in her search results.
And then Sam,
a 30-year-old male who is an artist at a tattoo shop, who frequently uses his computers to design his artwork, and who just researched leather jackets might see articles or shopping items related to Motorcycles if he did a “bike” search.
To Clarify, It’s less about male and female or age by the way, and more about how they use their computer, websites they frequent, and other searches they have recently performed, as well as items purchased or online stores they have shopped at recently.
So, how do you make sure your content is relevant to the visitor?
💡 Get very clear on who your audience is. Some call this an Avatar. Understand their problems, needs and concerns, and write content specifically for them. Therefore, The better you know WHO you are writing for, the more likely you are to rank on Google.
EAT: Expertise, Authority, Trust
As we continue onto the next decade, these 3 words will be everything that matters when it comes to SEO. If you are not a doctor, Google is not going to rank your article about heart disease. On the other hand, if you are someone that has a recognized specialty online, you are likely to rank much higher for your specialty blog posts than a non-specialist will. Your Specialty and the specialty of any guest bloggers are going to be significant for ranking on Google as we move through the coming months and years.
Meanwhile, while you, the writer, are judged by specialty, your website is judged by “authoritativeness”. Authority is earned through backlinks, references, brand, and even time.
To clarify, A new website is born without authority. It must earn this over time by creating recognition from its peers through backlinks, reviews, brand mentions and so forth. The overall subject matter will also be considered.
For example, You might write a great article as a specialist. This checks off the specialty box. However, if your website has no authority about that subject matter, you still may not score with Google.
Consequently, your blog posts and articles will have challenges ranking.
Google is very picky about YMYL articles. YMYL is an acronym for Your Money or Your Life which is how they interpret important medical and financial articles.
Trust is secured by having a safe website, https:// SSL certificate, and is a combination of expertise and authority as well.
In other words, you have to have expertise and authority to score high in the trust department.
I coach my clients to drill down in any subject and pick a specific niche, with a specific audience to build and monetize a blog, website, or youtube channel. This is because the competition for any general topic will be way too competitive and the odds of ranking high on Google will be slim.
Yet over and over, they pick something general like beauty, fashion, dating, or pets. These kinds of general blog websites don’t do well any more unless you have the time, money, expertise, authority, and trust to beat out the other writers and brands that have been around for a while, have money to spend, and plenty of brand recognition and authority.
Instead, drill down.
- Beauty Products
- Beauty Products for Women over 40
- Anti-Aging Products for Women over 40
- Beauty Products for Women over 40
- Beauty Products
Now, 40+ anti-aging products is still a massive niche. Maybe you know about certain ethnicities and what kind of skin care or anti-aging products would be good for them. That could be a niche!
I see people on Youtube that are killing it comparing real and dupe beauty products, or bags or some other sort of specific product.
While other creators are doing blogs, videos, social, and Pinterest just on nail designs, or eye shadow pallets. So rather than beauty, their entire review, blog, pin process is just on eye shadow pallets and tutorials for applying them.
Similarly, there is a woman I watch sometimes that specializes in makeovers for women over 50. Her niche is women over 50 and specifically about makeup and how it can be used to make you look younger.
Furthermore, Being a makeup artist herself, she is awarded for her specialty.
Let’s use Pets as an example:
- Breeding Poodles
- Dog Food
- Dog Health
- Dog Food
I imagine a specific breed of dog health would be even better than the general topic of dog health.
The bottom line is this: If you are talking to everyone, nobody is listening. If you are a generalist, you’ll be ignored. Winning is in the specialty.
When you craft your USP (Unique Selling Proposition), you spend more time identifying the audience, their problem, and how you solve it.
“I teach REAL ESTATE AGENTS how to GENERATE LEADS ONLINE so they don’t have to SUFFER through the cycles of not having any leads.
“I teach BLOGGERS how to CREATE AND MONETIZE their websites so they don’t have to GUESS THEIR WAY through the blogosphere.”
“I help ENTREPRENEURS who have a passion to MAKE MONEY ONLINE through a YOUTUBE CHANNEL that earns AFFILIATE INCOME”.
Keep in mind, that we tend to attract who we are.
Age groups, Lifestyle, Financial Status, etc. generally flock to those they find that they can relate to.
I keep all of that in mind when I’m writing.
You have to know who you are, and then convince Google that’s who you are, and you’ll attract others that appreciate and want to do business with who you are.
This is all part of building a brand.
Using appropriate heading tags throughout your page content is still a best practice and generally provides a better user experience.
Take this blog post for example. The title is the H1 (heading 1) tag. It’s the largest and most important heading in the blog. It contains my goal keyword for this article which is BLOG SEO.
Each main paragraph is an H2 or Heading 2. If you are using WordPress, changing these titles to headings are quite simple.
And then, H3 tags would be used for the important subcategories of a paragraph. I rarely use H4 to H6. You’ll notice that this blog has a table of contents.
The table of contents is created automatically using the H2 and H3 tags in this article.
I use the Easy Table of contents Plugin or the TOC WordPress plugin to create the table of contents.
Be sure to use your focus keyword from time to time in your headings as well when it appears “natural” to do so.
Keyword in the Slug
While most SEOs will agree that having the keyword int the top-level domain name (TLD) doesn’t pack the punch it used to, having the keyword in the slug, which is the words after the top-level domain name and then the slash (/) is still a best practice. This blog post is optimized for ‘Blog SEO’. The TLD is BallenBlogger.com and the slug is /blog-seo.
The page address, therefore, is https://ballenblogger.com/blog-seo.
This is a new blog and website, so it will take time to see pages like this climb the ranks. That being said, it’s still worth it to optimize at the time of publishing the article.
Keyword In The Title
Of course, you’ll want to use your focus keyword in your blog title. While Google is smart enough to understand topics now, and you can rank for keywords without even using them on your page, we still follow some basic best practices with our focused keyword placement.
Keyword In The First Paragraph
Again, fearing too much focus on “old school SEO’, using the focus keyword in the 1st paragraph is still the best SEO practice.
Keyword In The Images
Another Blog SEO best practice is to use your focus keyword as naturally as possible in image titles and in the alt image attributes as well. If you can describe the image naturally and include the focus keyword, it’s a best practice to do so in an image or two on your blog.
It’s not necessary to include it in all of them unless it’s appropriate to the image.
Keyword in the Meta description
Your meta description is what is used to create the snippet that appears on Google when your blog is presented as an option on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). It should be a short, simple, yet appealing description of what the user will access if they click your link.
As a result of this appealing meta description, you could gain more clicks on your link. Subsequently, your click-through rate will increase and this can help improve your odds of ranking higher on Google.
When internal links are used properly, they can help improve your Blog SEO strategy. When you select a set of words and links to another blog post or page on your website that is appropriate, this can help explain to the search engines how your pages are related.
In addition, when many pages rank to one key page or cornerstone content, it can help that page rank higher.
On the other hand, if the links are scattered and not purposeful, and the same phrases link to many various pages on the website, it can hurt your ranking abilities because you are sending the message to google that no page is the most important.
Linking to other pages on your website should be done to better guide your reader to related articles they could read to dig deeper into one particular topic.
I absolutely love the tool Link Whisper for this strategy. It’s a WordPress Plugin. After you create enough content on your website, Link Whisper will suggest which sets of words on your blog post could be linked to another page. You simply check the box to agree and the links are created for you.
If you have the premium version of Yoast SEO, you can also look at the suggested cornerstone content on the right side of the blog to be sure to include.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been optimizing websites since the early 1990s, before some of you were born no doubt. Back then and all the way up to the early 2000s, external links were a no-no for SEO.
See, when you link out to another page, you actually share some link equity with the page you link to. This could mean a slight reduction in the link equity of the page you are trying to rank for.
While this is still true, Google expects to see external links. If you are truly focused on your consumer, it would be natural to reference another website, specialist, product, map and so forth.
It’s a best practice to have links open in a new tab or window if they are leaving your website. You don’t want to link out to another website, passing link equity, and actually chase the user away from your own website at the same time.
In order to rank on the search engines today, your page must include unique, quality content that satisfies the searcher’s intent. While not all content needs to be long-form, meaning thousands of words, most will.
You will find that there is a correlation between page one ranking web pages and long-form content.
For example, if someone is doing a search for “What time is the Superbowl on”, they don’t want to read 3000 words about the Superbowl.
In Fact, I just performed the search and this result took up all of the above the fold space.
To Clarify, Google works diligently to return the proper results for the searcher and that is not always a website. If it can answer the question itself, then it will.
If Google believes the user is searching for something to buy, it might return a carousel of products.
On the other hand, if Google believes the searcher is wanting to learn to do something, it might return 1 or multiple video tutorials.
Meanwhile, if someone is searching for a nearby restaurant, Google will likely return a MAP result or a variety of restaurant booking services or delivery. And again, these results will most likely be personalized based on the searcher’s location, device, and probable intent.
It’s important to perform the searches yourself (or use an SEO tool like SEMrush) to determine which type of results are appearing the SERP so you know what you should create.
However, while all of those Google searches may not return a long-form article, if someone is searching how to reduce the appearance of fine lines under aging eyes, there is a good chance a long-form article will be.
Just after I typed the previous paragraph, I performed the search on my laptop computer. The first results were, in fact, a carousel of wrinkle creams. Every article after that was long-form content.
Surprisingly, the results were not all held by authoritative beauty brands. In fact, quora, the Q & A forum even had a place on page one.
I found this interesting!
If you are wondering what long-form content looks like, this blog post is exactly that, for instance. I’m not finished writing it yet, and it’s already more than 3000 words long.
While I don’t focus on the “word-count” during the article writing period, I do focus on covering the topic as deeply as I possibly can.Lori Ballen
I ask myself: “If I were a new blogger, and was truly focused on Blog SEO, what would I need to know that would give me the best possible chance of ranking on the search engines?”.
And then I answer it, with everything I’ve got!
Take a look:
By the way, you can find that nifty outline by clicking in the small i in your WordPress Editor. If you don’t see it, you may need to update your WordPress!
Transition words help your reader understand how 2 sentences, paragraphs or phrases are related. We can’t say readability is an absolute ranking factor, however, we can say Google is focused on rewarding pages that provided a quality experience to the visitor. In other words, Connecting two thoughts or ideas can help the readers “flow” especially with long-form content.
- In other words
- As a result of
- That is to say
- To Clarify
- On the Other Hand
- For Example
- For Instance
- After That
💡Blog SEO includes creating posts that help the user digest the content.
Today, schema markup is rather easy. Schema is type of “language” if you will that “marks-up” your page with important information about the author, reviews, location, and structured data elements. Using schema markup can help a high ranking page earn that featured snippet at the top of the page, also referred to as the zero position.
Not every query will return a SERP with a featured snippet. Therefore, it would not be possible at that moment to earn the zero position, but Google could change that at any time. You could, however, steal the featured snippet from someone else that has it.
To clarify, you wouldn’t be stealing it, you’d be earning it.
You’ll often see lists, recipes, tables, videos, and maps in the zero position. Therefore, it’s a good idea to use these on your pages where applicable.
And you’ll want to use schema markup to point out your structured data as well. The YOAST plugin for WordPress does a good job with this.
Other plugins like All in One Schema can also be used.
Yoast, in fact, has structured data elements like FAQS and How-To that appear in the WordPress Gutenberg blocks now.
While your FAQS (see the bottom of this blog post for an example) may not earn a featured snippet, they can create a RICH snippet where your FAQS appears on the search engine results page.
For Example, here is a rich snippet I earned for one of my blog websites.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free resource you should set up for your blog. Google will communicate with you regarding your website health. You can submit a sitemap and request indexing when you write a new blog.
Here’s how to submit a sitemap to Google Search Console
The act of optimizing a web page and website with the goal of ranking on the search engines.
Search Engine Results Page
Any website designed to return results for a specific search. While many think of these as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, consider the fact that Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, and other social channels, are also search engines.
Yoast SEO, formally WordPress SEO is a Plugin you can add to WordPress to help you apply best SEO Practices, control redirects, apply schema markup easily and more.
While old school keyword research isn’t as relevant today, SEO tools can still very much be helpful in determining a content strategy.
I like SEMrush for competitor research, the SEO Content Template, SEO audits and so forth. My favorite use of SEMrush is putting a URL of a competitive ranking website in the search bar and studying exactly which keywords they rank for and which ones bring the most traffic. It’s very helpful for creating the next blog topics! Why Guess when there is a map!
In conclusion, today’s blog SEO has more to do with creating great content, being an expert, and specializing in a particular niche than it does with keywords, spammy backlinks, and posting every day. Furthermore, applying best practices can help you earn great traffic from Google and other search engines.