How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content
Discover on-page SEO tips to optimize your blog content to make it organically ranked and easily searchable.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is incredibly important for marketers. When you optimize your web pages — including your blog posts — you’re making your website more visible to people who are using search engines (like Google) to find your product or service. But does your blog content really help your business organically rank on search engines?
In this article, you’ll find the answer to this question and more. Get ready for an in-depth exploration into the world of blog SEO, the factors that affect it, and tips to start optimizing your blog site for search engines.
Blogging helps boost SEO quality by positioning your website as a relevant answer to your customers’ questions. Blog posts that use a variety of on-page SEO tactics can give you more opportunities to rank in search engines and make your site more appealing to visitors.
Although it’s clear blog content does contribute to your SEO, Google’s many algorithm updates can make publishing the right kind of blog content tricky if you don’t know where to start. Some blog ranking factors have stood the test of time while others are considered “old-school.” Here are a few of the top-ranking factors that can, directly and indirectly, affect blog SEO.
Pro tip: As a rule of thumb, take time to understand what each of these factors does, but don’t try to implement them all at once. They each serve a specific purpose and should be used to meet a specific SEO goal for your blog. Listen to HubSpot’s Matt Barby and Victor Pan take on this topic in this podcast episode.
Factors That Affect Blog SEO
1. Dwell Time
Although dwell time is an indirect ranking factor for Google, it’s a critical factor in the user experience — and we know that user experience is king when it comes to SEO. Dwell time is the length of a time a reader spends on a page on your blog site. From the moment a visitor clicks on your site in the SERP, to the moment they exit the page is considered dwell time. This metric indirectly tells search engines like Google how valuable your content is to the reader. It makes sense that the longer they spend on the page, the more relevant it is to them.
However, there’s a reason this metric is an indirect indicator for SEO — it’s completely subjective. The search engine algorithms don’t know your content strategy. Your blog could be focused on short-form content that takes just a minute or two to read. You might also include pertinent information at the beginning of your blog posts to give the best reader experience, which means less time spent on the page. So yes, dwell time can affect SEO, but don’t manipulate your content to change this metric if it doesn’t make sense for your content strategy.
2. Page Speed
We mentioned earlier that visual elements on your blog can affect page speed, but that isn’t the only thing that can move this needle. Unnecessary code and overuse of plugins can also contribute to a sluggish blog site. Removing junk code can help your pages load faster, thus improving page speed. If you’re not sure how to find and remove junk code, check out HTML-Cleaner. It’s an easy-to-use tool that doesn’t require coding knowledge. It simply shows you the unnecessary code and lets you remove it with the click of a button.
I also recommend taking an inventory of your blog site plugins. Decide which ones you need to keep your blog running day-to-day and which ones were installed as a fix for a temporary issue. Plugins that affect the front-end of your site are a threat to page speed, and odds are, you can uninstall more of these plugins than you think to increase your overall site speed.
3. Mobile Responsiveness
More than half of Google’s search traffic in the United States comes from mobile devices. On an individual level, your blog site might follow that same trend. There’s no way around it — optimizing your blog site for mobile is a factor that will affect your SEO metrics. But what exactly does it mean to optimize a website for mobile? The industry rule of thumb is to keep things simple. Most pre-made site themes these days are already mobile-friendly, so all you’ll need to do is tweak a CTA button here and enlarge a font size there. Then, keep an eye on how your site is performing on mobile by taking a look at your Google Analytics dashboard and running a mobile site speed test regularly.
4. Index Date
Search engines aim to provide the most relevant and accurate information available. A factor search engines use when determining what’s relevant and accurate is the date a search engine indexes the content. Indexing means a search engine finds content and adds it to its index. Later, the page can be retrieved and displayed in the SERP when a user searches for keywords related to the indexed page.
You might be wondering: Is the date the content was indexed the same as the date it was published?
The answer: yes and no. If a blog post is published for the first time, it’s likely that say, a Google crawler will index that post the same day you publish it. But content can be backdated for several legitimate reasons, too, like archiving information or updating a sentence or two.
One way to positively affect this SEO factor is to implement a historical optimization strategy. This strategy works well on blogs that have been established for a few years and have a fair amount of content already. By updating these older posts with new perspectives and data, you’ll be able to significantly impact your blog SEO without creating a lot of net new content. Site crawlers will reindex the page — taking into account the updated content — and give it another opportunity to compete in the SERP. It’s truly a win-win.
5. Recent Data
Recent data, another indirect ranking factor of SEO, should be included in blog posts. Recent data gives visitors relevant and accurate information which makes for a positive reader experience. When you include a link to a credible site that has original, up-to-date data, you’re telling the search engine that this site is helpful and relevant to your readers (which is a plus for that other site). You’re also telling the search engine that this type of data is in some way related to the content you publish. Over time, your readers will come to appreciate the content which can be confirmed using other metrics like increased time on page or lower bounce rate.
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How to Optimize Blog Content for Search Engines
1. Identify the target audience for your blog.
No matter what industry your blog targets, you’ll want to identify and speak to the primary audience that will be reading your content. Understanding who your audience is and what you want them to do when they click on your article will help guide your blog strategy.
Buyer personas are an effective way to target readers using their buying behaviors, demographics, and psychographics. Without this insight, you could be producing grammatically correct and accurate content that few people will click on because it doesn’t speak to them on a personal level.
2. Conduct keyword research.
Now that you’ve selected your target audience and prepared a buyer persona, it’s time to find out what content your readers want to consume. Keyword research can be a heavy task to take on if you don’t begin with a strategy. Therefore, I recommend starting with the topics your blog will cover, then expanding or contracting your scope from there. For an in-depth tutorial, check out our how-to guide on keyword research.
3. Add visuals.
Search engines like Google value visuals for certain keywords. Images and videos are among the most common visual elements that appear on the search engine results page. In order to achieve a coveted spot in an image pack or a video snippet, you’ll want to design creative graphics, use original photos and videos, and add descriptive alt text to every visual element within your blog post.
Alt text is a major factor that determines whether or not your image or video appears in the SERP and how highly it appears. Alt text is also important for screen readers so that visually impaired individuals have a positive experience consuming content on your blog site.
4. Write a catchy title.
The title of your blog post is the first element a reader will see when they come across your article, and it heavily influences whether they’ll click or keep scrolling. A catchy title uses data, asks a question, or leads with curiosity to pique the reader’s interest.
According to Coscheduler’s Headline Analyzer, the elements of a catchy title include power, emotion, uncommon, and common words. In the right proportions, these types of words in a blog title will grab your readers’ attention and keep them on the page.
Here’s an example of a catchy title with a Coschedule Headline Analyzer Score of 87:
The Perfect Dress Has 3 Elements According to This Popular Fashion Expert
- Highlighted in yellow are common words. They’re familiar to the reader and don’t stray too far from other titles that may appear in the SERP.
- “Expert” is an emotional word, according to Coschedule. In this example, the word expert builds trust with the reader and tells them that this article has an authoritative point of view.
- Purple words are power words — this means they capture the readers’ attention and get them curious about the topic.
- Another element in this title is the number three. This signals to the reader that they’ll learn a specific amount of facts about the perfect dress.
5. Include an enticing CTA.
What’s a blog post without a call to action? The purpose of a CTA is to lead your reader to the next step in their journey through your blog. The key to a great CTA is that it’s relevant to the topic of your existing blog post and flows naturally with the rest of the content. Whether you’re selling a product, offering a newsletter subscription, or wanting the reader to consume more of your content, you’ll need an enticing CTA on every blog post you publish.
CTAs come in all types of formats, so get creative and experiment with them. Buttons, hyperlinks, and widgets are some of the most common CTAs, and they all have different purposes. For instance, you should add a bold, visible CTA like a button if you want the reader to make a purchase. On the other hand, you can easily get a reader to check out another blog post by providing a hyperlink to it in the conclusion of the current article.
6. Focus on the reader’s experience.
Any great writer or SEO will tell you that the reader experience is the most important part of a blog post. The reader experience includes several factors like readability, formatting, and page speed. That means you’ll want to write content that’s clear, comprehensive of your topic, and accurate according to the latest data and trends. Organizing the content using headings and subheadings is important as well because it helps the reader scan the content quickly to find the information they need. Finally, on-page elements like images and videos have an impact on page speed. Keep image file sizes low (250 KB is a good starting point) and limit the number of videos you embed on a single page. By focusing on what the reader wants to know and organizing the post to achieve that goal, you’ll be on your way to publishing an article optimized for the search engine.