Blog SEO: The Ultimate Guide To Optimizing Your Blog For SEO

Content marketing is one of the absolute best ways to get traffic to your site and to grow your business. But in order to do it effectively, you have to be well versed in search engine optimization.

Bloggers and content creators need a lot of help when it comes to SEO.

There are just too many things to consider:

  • What factors are the great and powerful Google looking at?
  • How relevant is your keyword research?
  • What steps should you follow to attract traffic from the most popular search engine in the world?

Well, not to worry. This guide is going to cover all that and more.

SEO practices have changed over the years because the Internet has changed. It has matured. Google has matured. It’s almost scary just how much data it has at its disposal. Throw some artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into that mix, and you have an extremely smart search engine.

All these changes to how Google goes about its business directly affect your ability to attract organic traffic from them.

This guide is going to provide you with an overview of every single thing that you need to know to fully optimize your blog for search, including the various ranking factors and the resources and tools that will help you achieve the results that you want.

Because of the sheer size of this mega-guide, it’s going to be broken up into 2 parts. Use it as a reference to come back to whenever you need.

OK, let’s get started!

Search Engine Optimization Has Evolved Over the Years

Old tactics like focusing on keyword density in your articles, going out to try to build links, keyword stuffing, and do-follow links are all dead. This is thanks to marketers and SEO firms who killed them by using them as ways of gaming the system.

But search engines matured and evolved – they got wise to the idiotic things that marketers were doing to try to rank their stuff.

Google is forever trying to improve their user experience because when their search results serve the user’s needs, the person will keep using their search engine. So it’s their goal to surface only the best stuff that is relevant to what the user is looking for.

This means that those trying to game the system will be considered enemies by Google.

It’s also why standard SEO is dead. It’s time to stop trying to build back-links laced with keywords and start doing SEO the way smart people are doing it these days.

That’s not to say that keywords and back-links don’t matter, they absolutely do.

But keywords have to be natural, you just can’t game the system anymore.

Back-links also matter, but the link pattern shouldn’t be an unnatural one that Google will see from miles away. Only natural back-links from quality sites will help you with your SEO.

So, the bottom line is Google has become pretty smart which means that SEO is very different now.

Google’s mission is simple:

To provide end users with exactly what they are looking for.

In the past, they did this through keywords within the content, but now it’s all about engagement and user satisfaction. They have new ways of determining signs of quality for content through various user engagement and satisfaction signals that show them how the user is actually interacting with the content (not just how many keywords you managed to stuff in it…)

Examples of Why User Engagement Matters:

  • Facebook’s machine learning algorithm is constantly surfacing the stuff you engage with most into your news feed. It uses over 100,000 factors to determine what goes into your news feed.
  • It’s the exact same thing in email marketing. If your subscribers don’t engage with your emails, your deliverability rates will drop and you’ll wind up in the spam folder. The goal is to get your subscribers to open the emails you send. They need to click, scroll, and reply to them. These are all the same things that you do with emails from people that you like and trust.
  • Same goes for your blog posts. Engagement are the key to getting the traffic that you’re hoping for. Google looks at many different signals to determine user happiness with the results they get from their search and then reacts to these in real time.

If it seems that one result is satisfying users much more than another, then that result will quickly outrank the other in the search results. Google uses machine learning to adapt on the fly.

But, how can Google tell when users are happy with search results? (I hear you asking)

Well, there are various user behaviors that indicate satisfaction, and this is what Google looks at. Things such as:

  • Click-through rate from Google results to that page
  • Length of time user spends on that page
  • Bounce rate – If the user is pogo-sticking through search results (visiting #1 then quickly backing out, visiting #2 then quickly bouncing out again, and so on.)

There are a lot of other factors that they consider, but all this adds up to a huge shift in SEO. This isn’t new, by any means, however, if you’re still stuck in the world of back-links and long tail keywords then you’re going to miss the boat because SEO today isn’t about links and keywords and other mechanical stuff.

It’s about optimizing for actual humans.

SEO is now UXO (User Experience Optimization)

The new SEO of today is all about User Experience Optimization. The best thing you can do for your blog is to optimize the user experience.

Cater to real humans and not bots and you will start to see an improvement in your organic traffic flow.

These are the questions to ask yourself:

  • Are your visitors clicking on your content?
  • Are they scrolling and reading it?
  • Are they engaging with it?
  • Do they find your content useful?

If you’re spewing articles from content spinners, you’re not going to get much engagement. If you’re producing low-quality content, everyone is just going to hit the ‘back’ button.

If your articles are unreadable and stuffed with keywords, or if they clearly don’t help them then your bounce rate is only going to go up because the users will be there just long enough to determine that the article sucks before they leave.

When you consider such things, even the best keyword optimization on earth simply won’t matter.

So, Is Keyword Research Still Important?

Yes! Keywords will always be the fundamental way that Google determines what content is about. But, you don’t need to get as nitty-gritty about them as everyone used to in the past when the name of the game was all about trying to work long-tail keyword phrases into your content.

These days, you don’t just rank for those keywords by stuffing them wherever you can in as many different ways as possible. The content that you create has to be excellent.

But how does Google determine if you’ve written some truly epic stuff?

Google determines the quality of your content by using these 7 signals of user engagement:

  1. Click-Through Rate
  2. Scroll Depth
  3. Time on Page and Bounce Rate
  4. Social Shares of the Post
  5. Natural Back-links
  6. Readability
  7. Site Speed

Now let’s take a more detailed look at each of these user engagement signals:

1. Click-Through Rate

Google uses a tracker to keep tabs on all outgoing traffic and see what people click on most. So if you have a great title and description in the SERPs (search engine results page) that makes people want to click on it, you will get higher CTR (click-through rate) from the search results.

Optimize your listing for the click-through in the same way you would for an email subject line.

Your blog post headline should be optimized not only on the blog post itself but also in how it appears in Google. Put emotion in your headlines to make them more interesting. Use promise words and numbers in your titles.

These get more attention since the results are more realistic.

Optimize your description to work as a sub-headline that convinces people to click on your article from the results. It’s a good idea to include a few proven keywords into your description. Yoast SEO Plugin is a great tool to use for this.

2. Scroll Depth

Scroll depth simply refers to how far down your page people scroll. People only scroll down pages that they are interested in.

Use tools like CrazyEgg to see how far your readers are scrolling down your pages, or you can integrate the tracking on your WordPress blog using WP Scroll Depth plugin.

Increase the chances of people scrolling down your pages further by using some of the following content tactics:

  • Create long-form posts that are packed full of value
  • Use infographics to entice people to scroll to see the whole image
  • Use images that cut off at the fold so that they have to scroll down to see the entire thing
  • Use teasers at the top of your post and hint at what’s below so people will go down to see.

These are just a few examples, but you get the idea…

3. Increase Time On Page & Reduce Bounce Rate

As previously stated, the more engaged people are, the longer they’re going to stay on your page. And it’s a sign of quality content if they move to other pages on your site instead of just immediately bouncing off.

Here are some tactics that you can use to reduce bounce rate:

  • Make sure that your content is highly relevant otherwise people will just hit the back button to find exactly what they are looking for on the other search results.
  • Include videos in your posts. When people watch the video, it’s increasing the time spent on your page.
  • Use the same tactics that are listed for increasing scroll depth, they work for this as well. From the huge resource posts to infographics.

4. Social Shares of Your Post

Usually, when a post has lots of social shares, it’s a sign of great content. You wouldn’t share something that you feel sucks, would you?

So one of the things you have to do for modern blog SEO is to get more social media shares.

In addition to creating awesome, share-worthy content, there are some more specific ways of ensuring that your readers share your content:

  • Use ‘tweetables’ within your posts. A tweetable is just a highlighted quote which is suitable for a tweet. There’s a button next to it inviting a retweet of the quote, and the tweet has a link back to your post. Simple tools like ClicktoTweet allow you to automatically create these within your posts.
  • Create an infographic to go with the post. This is great for sharing on Pinterest.
  • Use a tool like Thrive Comments for your blog so you can present all commenters with a call to action asking them to share the post.
  • Use content upgrades where your readers have to share the post in order to unlock access.
  • Run paid ads to amplify your posts on social media.

5. Get More Natural Back-links

Do not, under any circumstances, engage in link exchanges, paid links, or anything else that will give you unnatural back-links. Just do everything else mentioned in this article and the back-links will take care of themselves.

People will always want to link to you as long as you do your job well. That’s just a fact.

6. Ensure Readability

Proper spelling and grammar matter. Readability is one of the signs of quality that Google uses because they know that people will not engage with content that is not very readable.

But that’s not to say that you have to become a grammar nut!

Talk to your audience in a normal way, but use simple tools such as Grammarly and Copyscape to ensure that your article is readable, has no spelling or grammar mistakes, and is plagiarism-free (oh yeah, Google hates copycats!)

Yoast SEO plugin also has a great tool for helping you with the readability of your posts.

7. Increase Your Site Speed

Your blog speed and the server it’s on both have a huge impact on SEO because the speed of your blog is part of the user experience that Google is so set on improving. Slow server responses increase your bounce rate and also reduce the time users spend on your page.

No one has the patience to wait for your blog to load. Use tools like Pingdom to test your site speed, or go straight to the big kahuna, Google, and have them test your site with PageSpeed Insights.

You’ll almost always find that there is room for improvement.

In Conclusion

This isn’t the end. In the next post, we’re going to be discussing some of the things that you can start to do today to increase the speed of your site, as well as the details of how to optimize your site for search.

So Stay Tuned!

Feel free to post your comment below. An email address is required but it will not be shared with anyone, put on any list, or used for any kind of marketing, just to alert you if there are any replies. Thanks and happy hunting!

PlanetBizOp.com

->Steven

Updated: Originally published June 27th 2018

June 21, 2019
  • Howard says:

    Hi Steven,

    I enjoyed reading this post because it hit a nerve.

    My overall knowlege of SEO is not good and frankly a lot of it goes over my head but in this article you have clearly illustrated to me just how vital it is to implement sound strategies.

    I appreciate that, Thanks

    • Steven says:

      Some put way too much emphasis on SEO. If you produce good quality information that people want to share and make life easy for the search engines, the SEO takes care of itself in most cases. Nonetheless, the advice in this article is all you really need to get decent rank even in a competitive niche.

      Glad you got something good from the article and thanks for the comment Howard!

  • Reyhana says:

    Steven, I would like to thank you for a well-written post because I will now go and implement what the tips and tricks you advise within this post.

    I have a big problem with my bounce rate and I will implement your advice to see if it gets me anywhere. I have tried changing a little bit the way that I write but hopefully, all that I was missing has been covered within your post.

    Will keep you updated! Thanks again!

    • Steven says:

      Let me know how it all comes out. I’m glad you found some useful information in the article.

      Thanks for the comment Reyhana!

  • Dallas McCalister says:

    How long did it take you to start getting organic traffic from Google, I have had my site open now for a few months and realize it does take time, but was wondering how much time it took for you.

    It seems you are saying that we should work hard at keeping visitors on a page so the SEO will rank the site higher, what would you suggest I do to make this happen without boring my reader to death?

    I appreciate your post on this topic, I have been struggling with SEO knowledge.

    Dallas McCalister

    • Steven says:

      My site is in a very competitive niche so it took me longer than most to get any real steady traffic from search engines. So, you can’t really compare one niche to another, in terms of time. If you are also in a competitive niche, be prepared to wait. It usually takes 3 – 6 months to get any reliable traffic.

      Keeping people on your site longer can usually be accomplished by embedding video in your pages. This accomplishes a lot of different beneficial things for you. People and Google both love video. If you put a 3 minute video on a page, it will usually keep people there at least 3 minutes. You can search YouTube for shareable, relevant video if you don’t want to make your own.

      Thanks for the comment Dallas!

  • Iquil says:

    This is a very clean site. I like how you have the links for the social media posted in a spot that is easily accessible for viewers to see. Content is easy on the eyes and you have photos that relate to the topic of discussion. This is a relevant topic that I am interested in coming back to. Great job!

    • Steven says:

      Thanks. I’m happy the site is useful to you and you got something from the article.

      Thanks for the comment Iquil!

  • Karin says:

    Hi Steven,
    I really appreciate all the information shared in this article. I am not old at trying to be seen on google. Actually I am just getting started doing things online, but I found the information to be very helpful the way you expanded on things like keywords. I really liked your pointers of things to work on and tools to help.

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