If you've ever taken any blogging and content marketing online courses, you know people still read blogs and that those blogs can still produce sales leads.
In fact, marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to see higher ROI, according to one Hubspot report. But if your blogs aren't being seen, they can't generate leads for your company. That's why blogging with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind is a content marketing best practice you can't live without.
As a digital marketing agency with a strong focus on content, we suggest taking these steps to optimize every blog for SEO.
Use a Blog Template Document
Using a blog template designed to align content and SEO ensures your whole team, and your agency, are on the same page about blog optimization. You might include things like:
Meta Content Area
It's also a good idea to remind people of best practices in any template you use. For example, note how many keywords to include, how long your meta description should be, and any other important information your writer needs to make every blog valuable and visible.
Plan Blog Titles Using SEO Keywords
Your content marketing plan should include an editorial schedule with your blog titles, publish dates, and any other info your team needs to consistently create and publish blog posts to your Content Management System (CMS). When creating that schedule and brainstorming those titles, your SEO keywords should be front and center. You can find them using:
3rd Party Keyword Research Tools: SpyFu, SEMRush, and more can give you the words and phrases you need.
Analytics Data from Previous Blogs: Use blogs that perform well as a guide for future titles, keywords, and focus areas.
Questions People Ask: Whether it's doing some subject-matter research using "People Also Ask" or drawing them straight from conversations with your customers, long-tail question keywords as blog titles or subheads could mirror the exact question a potential customer has about your products and services.
Consider Length and Keyword Frequency
Looking at data from 2020 and beyond, longer blogs seem to be performing better and ranking higher on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Expert recommendations vary, but 1,000 to 1,200 words is a solid goal for blog creation. We recommend using 5-7 keywords in each blog, and pepper them throughout the post. You can use them in titles, headers, bullet points, and throughout the blog paragraphs.
Keyword variations are a good idea too. Note: Punctuation, including commas, hyphens, etc., don't differentiate keywords. So if you write a post about hashtagging, people using "hash-tagging" and "hash tagging" in their search queries should be able to find your blog with proper optimization in place. It's important not to overdo it with keywords since keyword stuffing will hurt your SEO rankings.
Create Valuable Content
Making a blog long enough and using a handful of strong keywords is only half the battle when writing blogs for SEO. Part of optimization is getting people to your website and keeping them there. To lower bounce rates and increase your click-through-rate (CTR), it's important to write blogs people will read. To do that, know what people are looking for.
According to content marketing pro Ryan Robinson, 77% of people surveyed read blogs regularly to:
Find the answers to quick questions
Learn a new skill from an in-depth guide
Watch a video tutorial that also includes a written walkthrough
Learn from an expert or influencer in an area of their interest
Get advice or have questions answered through discussion in blog comments
Get local news and updates
Have a sense of community with others who share their interests
Make a final decision about buying a product or starting a service
Understand how to use/get the most from something they recently purchased
While you're planning your blog schedule for the next year, challenge yourself. Can you create at least one blog post that adds value in each of these ways? How can you repurpose this content into multiple formats your teams and customers can use? Meeting these challenges head-on will give you a competitive edge and will keep your blog content fresh, engaging, and exciting year-round.
Bonus Points: Prepare for the Blogging Dilemma
The difficult part of creating longer-form content for blogs is this: even though search engines prefer longer blogs, people may not stay on a blog long enough to read the entire page. Time on site for blog pages varies widely, with shorter visits lasting about 30 seconds, and longer ones taking a few minutes. How do you balance all this? Here's what we suggest:
Continue to Write: Even though not everyone will read the entire post, some people will, and they deserve consistent, quality content.
Make it Skim-able: Most people who don't read blogs word-for-word still skim them from top to bottom to see what steps to follow and find their answers quickly. Including helpful subheads and bulleted lists is a great way to make it easier for people to skim your content for key points.
As with any content marketing, it's important to monitor the analytics behind your blog posts. If you're not seeing the performance you want, talk to your marketing agency about how to make blogs more relevant and how to leverage them for greater value and return on investment.