This post is part of my guide on how to start a blog from scratch. Read the full guide to learn all the steps involved in creating a new blog.
As a blogger, one of your main tasks is to write content and even though that might sound like a simple task, it isn’t.
Since the initial topic idea and unto the final post, there are multiple steps that an article should be taken through. It’s not enough to just write whatever occurs in your mind and expect for the traffic to come.
But isn’t the job of the search engines to send me traffic?
Good luck with that.
The SEO competition is fierce now for many keywords, and it only rarely happens for a page that’s not optimized in any way to reach the number one position in Google for a phrase that has a fair number of searches.
Therefore, in most of the cases, it’s not enough to just write a post and wait for the search engines to find it. There are specific ways you can help the search engines find your content, and if you do some things in certain ways, you can drastically increase the chances for this to happen.
Besides the general optimizations that you can do to your site for improving its visibility in the results of the search engines, you can also write SEO friendly content. A well-optimized article has more chances to reach the first page of Google than an unoptimized post.
By writing SEO friendly posts, you’ll significantly increase your chances of reaching Google’s first page and receive the traffic you’ve always dreamed of.
I’m not an SEO expert, but after reading a lot of SEO related stuff and after much practice, I’ve learned many things about what the search engines like and how to write content that’s more SEO friendly.
That’s exactly what I’m going to share with you in this article.
- 1. Do a Keyword Research
- 2. Make a proper usage of HTML’s heading tags
- 3. Add Meta Tags
- 4. Create Rich-Media Content
- 5. Write only original content
- 6. Use LSI Keywords within your content
- 7. Write long posts
- 8. Add the “alt” tag to images
- 9. Add internal and external links
- 10. Watch keyword density
1. Do a Keyword Research
For every post I write, I first do a keyword research to determine if anyone is interested in that topic.
While there are many free and paid tools for researching keywords, I’m currently only using several free tools.
Once I have a subject in mind, I start brainstorming what could be the primary keyword that I could optimize my post for.
That doesn’t have to be something very specific. I just think of a broad keyword and then use several tools to find the best variations of that keyword based on the number of searches.
Let’s take the example of the post I’m currently writing.
My intention was to write a post with several tips on how to write content that’s more SEO friendly. The purpose of this article was to help the people who are just getting started a blog to write content that’s better optimized for the search engines.
The first keyword that came to my mind was “how to write SEO friendly content.” This time I got it right on the first attempt, but that doesn’t happen every time.
Next, I went to Google Keyword Planner.
Google Keyword Planner is a free tool offered by Google to their customers that use the Google Adwords advertising platform. This tool allows you to get an idea of the search volume of a particular keyword in Google, but it’s also excellent for finding related keywords and longer phrases that you can target.
You’ll have to create a Google Adwords account to be able to use Keyword Planner. Fortunately, it’s free.
Once you access Google Keyword Planner, to perform a keyword research click on “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.”
Enter the search keyword you thought about in the “Your product or service” form.
If you target a specific country, select that location from the “Targeting” options to get more accurate results.
I usually just target an international audience and I leave the targeting options to their defaults.
Click on “Get Ideas” to see the search volume for the specified keyword and related searches.
As you can see, my keyword and its close variants are searched between 100 and 1000 times every month (I think Keyword Planner will give you a more accurate data if you’ve had at least an active Adwords campaign for your account).
That’s a good number and it confirms my assumption that people would be interested in this topic.
This time I found my primary keyword to target from the first attempt, but this doesn’t always happen.
If no one searches for the keyword you though at initially, or if it has a too little search volume (100-1K is my minimum), then I usually try to find another variation of the keyword to target.
If the keyword has a search volume that’s very high, then the competition is probably very high as well. If that’s the cause, I usually just try to find a more extended variation of that keyword.
I also like to check and see how many results Google displays for that keyword.
Even though 2,300,000 results might for that search term look like much, it’s not that competitive compared to other keywords.
Now, I also like to check how many pages indexed in Google have in their titles this exact phrase.
To check that, I just type the following into Google’s search box:
allintitle:”how to write SEO friendly content”
And, let’s see the result.
405 results is much better than 2,300,000, right?
Even though that alone is not a clear indicator if this keyword is approachable or not, it’s still a sign that might be a good keyword to rank for.
Once you’ve found your primary keywords, you’ll need to find a few more terms that your article an rank for.
To find more related keywords, just go through the rest of keywords in Google Keyword Planner.
You are not always going to find the best keyword using Google Keyword Planner, but it’s an excellent tool for checking the search volume of a particular keyword.
A very good method of finding long tail keywords is Google Instant Autocomplete Suggestions.
Just go to Google and type the keyword in the search form. Google will then instantly give you a list of variations of that search term.
Another great tool for finding long keywords is Ubersuggest.
Ubersuggest enables you to turn almost any short keyword into a long tail keyword, or a long keyword into an even more extended keyword.
Just type your desired keyword in the input form and click the “Suggest” button.
Ubersuggest also works for more languages, and services.
After you click the suggest button, you will already have several variations of your keyword.
If you want to extend these keywords even more, click on the keyword phrase and select “Expand this keyword” from the options list.
If that keyword can be extended more, Ubbersuggest will give you more variations.
To check if anyone searches for that new keyword, just go back to Google Keyword Planner.
I could easily write a 10,000 words article only for covering an in-depth keyword research. This is going to be a topic to write about in one of my future articles.
You know now just enough about doing a keyword research for your posts.
The HTML has a set of heading tags that are designed to contain some of the most important information on the page (<H1>,<H2>,<H3>,<H4>,<H5>,<H6>).
The search engines use these tags to identify the titles and subtitles of your content and weigh a fairly high value for SEO.
However, these tags are not beneficial only for SEO, but a correct usage of these tags will give your posts a cleaner look and make your content easier to read.
These tags are meant to contain only titles and subtitles, so do not wrap entire paragraphs of text inside a single heading. A good value for a heading is a just a short phrase.
Even though there are six HTML heading tags that you can use in your content, there’s no need to use all of them.
The most important heading tag is, without doubt, the <H1> tag.
This tag should only be used a single time in the content of a page and inside the opening <H1> and closing </H1> tag should be displayed the post title.
If you inspect the source code of my site, you will see that all the post titles are wrapped by the <H1> and </H1> tags.
Even though this element is not required for the HTML code of a page to pass the markup validation check, every page that you want to rank well in the results of the search engines should contain a <H1> heading, and its primary keyword term should be included inside these tags.
Note that this title is different from the site title that will be displayed in the search results and the web browsers’ tabs (we are going to talk about that later in this post).
Bing even displays an SEO warning in its Webmaster service if the <H1> heading tag is missing from the content of one page and marks that as a “High” severity issue.
If you use WordPress with a properly coded theme (get the exact theme I use for my blog), the <H1> tags should be automatically placed around the post tiles on the single post page. If that’s the case, you never have to add this heading tag manually when you write a post on your blog.
The <H2> tag is the second most important HTML heading tag.
These tags can be used multiple times on the pages and should contain subtitles, or the titles of different sections.
Every tip highlighted in this post is wrapped by an opening <H2> and a closing </H2> tag.
Let’s inspect the page HTML source code again.
If these sections would have more subsections, I would then use the <H3> tags for their titles. If those subsections would have more subsections of their own, I would then wrap their titles in the <H4> tags, and so on.
3. Add Meta Tags
The HTML meta tags are essential for your site’s on-page SEO.
These meta tags contain information and indications for search engines’ crawlers and not for people. In fact, these are only displayed in the HTML source code of your site and are not visible on the page.
There are several meta tags that most of the search engines understand and use.
The most important meta tags concerning SEO, are:
- Meta Description
- Meta Robots
These tags must only be placed between the HTML opening <HEAD> and closing </HEAD> tag. Therefore, these elements cannot just be added in the content editor or anywhere else in the content of a page.
If your site is built on WordPress, then you can install a plugin like Yoast SEO (that’s what I use) and you can manage the meta tags with ease.
In fact, this is not even a meta tag, but I always include it in this category, because it’s very important for SEO.
The <TITLE> tag is a required HTML tag that defines the title of a document and is displayed by the web browsers.
Here’s an example of how this tag looks in the source code of a page:
<TITLE>How To Write SEO Friendly Content</TITLE>
The content inside the opening <TITLE> and closing </TITLE> tag is not visible on a page, but it’s displayed in the tabs of the web browser when you access a page.
Besides that role, the <TITLE> tag is a vital element for the SEO of every page.
The value between the title tags is displayed by the search engines in SERP (search engine results page) and is probably the most important place where the keywords you want a page to rank for to appear.
The meta description tag should contain a small description of the content on a page. The primary keyword for which you want a page to rank for should also be included in the meta description.
The content of this meta tag should look natural (not as a list of keywords) and should be highly relevant to the content of the page.
Here’s an example of how this tag looks in the HTML code of a page:
<meta name=”description” content=”This post is a guide on how to write content that’s optimized for the search engines.” />
Just as the value of the <TITLE> tags, the value set for the “content” attribute of this tag, is displayed in SERP if its description is relevant enough for the page.
The search engines have become smarter, and if the meta description of a page is not set or if its content is not relevant enough to that page, the value of this tag can be ignored and displayed a fragment from page’s content instead.
Unlike the title and meta description, this tag is not required to be present on all the pages.
Sometimes, you won’t want all your site’s pages indexed by the search engines. For example, I don’t want my blog’s tag pages indexed.
This can be achieved in multiple ways, but the most common way for preventing the search engines to index a specific page is by adding the meta robots tag to the <HEAD> area of a page.
Here’s how the meta robots tag looks in the source code of a page:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
Every page that doesn’t contain this tag allows the search engines’ crawlers to index that page. If you specify this meta tag with a “noindex” value for the content attribute, then the search engines won’t add that page URL to their index.
In this case, the crawlers can access the page, but won’t index it.
If you add the “nofollow” attribute, the crawlers will index the page but are not allowed to access the links on that page.
If you combine these two values (noindex,nofollow), then the robots are not allowed to index and cannot visit the links on that page.
4. Create Rich-Media Content
An article consisting only of text will not maintain the attention of your visitors, is more tiring for the reader’s eyes and gets fewer shares and engagements on the social networks.
This will automatically lead to a higher bounce rate, fewer social signals, fewer page views per visitor, and other problems.
The search engines also seem to prefer the pages that contain multiple content types.
Besides the ranking advantages, Google and other major search engines can now display star ratings, maps, images, lists, links, videos, and other media types from a page directly on the results page.
These are the results that usually receive the majority of the clicks from the searches.
Your content can also contain links, tables, lists, and other HTML elements that will improve the aspect of your posts and the user experience.
5. Write only original content
A common mistake that some people do is to post content that’s not unique on their blogs.
One of the things that the search engines like the most is the fresh and unique content. However, there are still some people who try to skip the work, and they take the shortest and easiest path.
A good example of this practice is when people use PLR (Private Label Rights) articles as content for their blogs.
The PLR articles are usually sold or received for free from other people, and some blog owners think that’s a good idea to take the easy route and add these articles to their blogs without rewriting a word.
In fact, that’s a very bad idea.
The same PLR articles were probably already added to hundreds or thousands of other sites.
If that’s the case, not only that those pages will never rank well in the search results, but it’s also very likely that the sites these have been posted on to receive a penalty for duplicate content in the near future.
Another example of lousy content, are the blogs that publish content stolen from other sites with content scrapers and then rewritten with content spinners.
Never post that type of content, and never buy a site that has such articles. Sadly, I’ve seen many sites of this kind sold on Flippa.
Firstly, that can get you in trouble for stealing other people’s intellectual property, and secondly, that content is usually full of mistakes and phrases that have no sense.
6. Use LSI Keywords within your content
The LSI keywords are synonyms or words that are strongly related.
Google uses the LSI keywords for determining better the topic of a page.
For example, the primary keyword of one of your posts can be “Amazon.” Now, how does Google know if your page content is about Amazon (the company) or the Amazon river?
Well, that’s the role of the LSI keywords.
If besides the word “Amazon” Google also finds on that page words like “e-commerce”, “shop”, “store”, “shipping”, “kindle”, “bookstore”, “prime”, etc., then it can determine that the content of that page is about the Amazon company.
If it finds words like “water”, “river”, “drainage basin”, “sailing”, “freshwater fish”, “wildlife”, “rainforest”, etc., then it can determine that that page refers to the river Amazon.
Besides the words in the same lexical field with your primary keywords, you should additionally use synonyms and variations of these key phrases. Instead of repeating the same exact keywords hundreds of times, use synonyms and variations when possible.
Google is very intelligent. In its search results, Google will also display abbreviations and synonyms for the searched term.
For example, I’ve searched for:
best shoe stores
Even though I’ve searched for “best shoe stores,” Google has also highlighted the word “footwear” in the description shown for one of the results.
This means that Google knows that the word “footwear” is a synonym for the word shoe.
Google also identifies many word abbreviations.
This time, I’ve searched for:
search engine optimization
As you can see, besides “search engine optimization,” the word “SEO” has been displayed with a bold style in the description of one of the search results.
A very handy tool for fiding LSI keywords starting from a specific keyword is LSIgraph.com.
Just access the tool to the link above, specify a term you want to get LSI keywords for and click the “Generate” button. A list of LSI terms will be quickly generated, and you integrate these phrases within the content of your posts.
7. Write long posts
The era when the 150-word posts were occupying Google’s first page is long gone.
For some of the most competitive keyword phrases, most of the search engines seem to rank better the pages that have longer content.
Besides the SEO advantage, these in-depth posts are also shared more on the social networks.
The chances for your posts to receive a backlink from one of the authoritative sites on that topic are also higher when you write long posts.
Do not just make your articles longer by expressing the same ideas with other words. Instead, expand the main idea of your posts by covering all the possible aspects of the chosen subject.
Also, do not write 500 words about SEO and the rest of the 1000 words about what you did last summer.
The content of the article should be all related to the keywords you want to optimize the content for.
The Yoast SEO plugin recommends a minimum of 300 words per post. My minimum number of words per post is 700, but very rarely my articles have under 1000 words.
Brian Dean, one of the most well-known SEO experts, has mentioned in one of his blog posts that he and his team have analyzed 1 million of Google’s search results and one of the findings was that “the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”
I don’t know if the length of the content is a direct SEO ranking factor or just the result of the fact that your posts receive more social signals and backlinks. Anyway, writing more extended content seems to attract more traffic and better SERP rankings.
Still, if you can’t write more than 300 words about a particular topic, it’s better to leave the post shorter rather than filling the rest of the article with unrelated content just for the sake of having lengthier content.
Also, if the subject of your post only requires a short answer, there’s no point of taking the visitor through a 3000-words long article just to give him the solution in 100 words at the end of the post.
At the end of the day, you are the one that has to decide which is the best size for every one of your posts.
8. Add the “alt” tag to images
Images play an important role in the content of your posts.
One of the advantages of including images between the text of your articles is that will make the content more visually appealing to the reader. This can lead to a lower bounce rate, can add extra value to the content, and will offer a better user experience.
The posts that include images are more likely to be shared on the social networks, and if you add an infographic that can be embedded on other people’s sites, that can also bring you backlinks and traffic.
Still, do images offer any SEO value?
The answer is, Yes.
The same analysis made by Brian Dean and his team of over 1 million of Google’s results has also revealed that the content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any pictures. You can read the full list of findings and conclusions of this interesting case study on Backlinko.
However, it’s not enough to just include images within the content and hope that Google will find your pages better in the search results because of that.
Here’s how you can optimize your site’s images for a better SEO.
The HTML code that displays an image looks like the following:
<img src=”http://www.example.com/image.png” alt=”WordPress Usage Statistics” />
Do you see the alt=”WordPress Usage Statistics” part?
The search engines cannot determine what an image is about if you don’t specify a description for it using the HTML alt attribute. If you add the image’s alt attribute and describe the content of the image in a few words, you will allow the search engines know what your picture illustrates.
Now, if my post would be about “WordPress blogging platform” and if my image would have “WordPress Usage Statistics” as the value for the alt image of one of my images, then people could find that image in Google’s Image Search when they look for “WordPress Usage Statistics”, or variations of this term.
Also, if “WordPress” would be one of the keywords I want to optimize my post for, having the word “WordPress” in the alt tag of at least one image of that article, would improve the SEO score of that page.
If you use WordPress, you can easily set the alt tag for the images after you upload an image with the Media Uploader.
In the right side of the previews of the uploaded images, you should see an “Alt Text” option. That’s where you can define the text for the image’s alt tag when using WordPress, without having to modify the HTML code directly.
I usually also like to add the same value as for the alt attribute as the image title. The image title is displayed when someone places the mouse cursor over an image.
Including internal and external links within the content of your posts is also considered to have SEO benefits.
The search engines use the internal links to discover your site’s content and to determine how the articles on your site are related to each other.
Google doesn’t only track your site’s external backlinks, but also your site’s internal linking.
If several of your site’s pages link to the same internal URL, the search engines will perceive that as an important page of your website and will pay more attention to it.
You can track both your site’s internal links and backlinks using Google Search Console.
The links on a page will also pass what it’s called in SEO terms as link juice. This link juice will be passed both to the internal and to the external links on a page.
The page of your site that generally has the most authority is the homepage because this page has usually the most backlinks pointing to it (that’s why many people are desperately looking for backlinks from a site’s front page). Having too many links on the homepage is a common mistake that some site owners make.
Do not link to another site or an internal post just for the sake of including links in your content. Instead, only link to pages that are relevant to the original content and that can offer additional value to the readers.
There isn’t a minimum, maximum, or a recommended number of internal or external links a page can have. For a 1000-1500 words post, I usually add 3-5 internal links and about 2-3 external links that add extra value to my content.
Also, try to variate the anchor text (the text that someone sees before clicking the link) for your links.
10. Watch keyword density
If your post contains your focus keywords too many times, then it’s over optimized, its content looks unnatural and can attract SEO penalties.
At the opposite side, if the focus keywords appear in your content too few times, then that page is not well enough SEO optimized.
To determine the number of times a specific keyword appears in the content of a page, the search engines use a metric called the keyword density. Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword appears on a page compared to the total number of words on that page.
In the past, the right keyword density was somewhere around 0.5% and up to 5%. Now, since the search engines have become smarter and for encouraging the non-spammy natural content, the perfect value for the keyword density is now considered to be somewhere between 0.5% and 2.5%.
Google recognizes now synonyms and uses LSI keywords to determine the topic of a page. There’s no more need to repeat the same keyword phrase a hundred times to make the search engine aware of the subject of a given page.
I use the Yoast SEO plugin for my blog. This plugin has a helpful feature that enables me to see the density of a specified keyword phrase as I write the content.
If I target a shorter keyword, then I usually aim for a higher value for the keyword density. Otherwise, if I focus on a longer key phrase, then I typically maintain a lower keyword density.
Writing content for your blog is not that easy as many people think. It’s just not enough to write the content that comes to your mind and expect for the traffic to come.
If your primary traffic strategy focuses on SEO and getting visitors from the search engines, then you need to be well organized, you have to perform a keyword research for every post you write and follow a set of rules when it comes to the content creation.
The search engine optimization is a very complicated topic. You have to do general on-site optimizations, you have to research and optimize the content you write, and you even have to take off-site actions.
As a blogger, you continuously need to keep up with all the SEO changes, and you need to know what the search engines like and what don’t.
I hope you know now how to write SEO friendly content. The next time you write a post on your blog, don’t forget to put into practice what you’ve learned today.