How to optimise a blog post properly

Do you optimise your blog posts? Do you even know what it means? In a highly competitive online search landscape, every little thing you can do to attract the right kind of attention from search engines – therefore from people – matters. Here’s how to get it right first time, every time.

What does search engine optimisation mean?

Search engine optimisation isn’t rocket science, nor is it a dark art. It’s common sense. It simply means creating and formatting a piece of content in such a way that search engine algorithms can ‘see’ what the subject matter is, understand its relevance and have all the information they need to surface the information when people are actively searching for it.

Set a goal for every post

First, decide what the post’s purpose is. It might be to attract a new audience in your sector or outside of it, to convince readers about your opinions or present new facts you’ve uncovered, promote a product or service, share news, contribute to an existing conversation or answer a question you know your target audience is asking. You can’t take the first SEO step – the keyword research – without first knowing what you want to get out of the exercise.

Decide what ‘success’ looks like and how to measure it

Second, decide what success looks like. Do you want to ramp up 1000 visits, attract 100 social media shares or achieve 2% extra conversion? Do you want to measure engagement, attract influencers or attract new inbound links to your website? Unless you know what success actually means in terms of statistics, you won’t know whether you’ve achieved it.

Pin down your audience

Who do you want to attract with the post? An existing tranche of loyal people? A new database of fresh prospects from an entirely different sector? People who you know will share and amplify your message so it reaches a wider audience? To succeed you need to know who your perfect audience is.

Now for the SEO side – Carrying out keyword research

You know what the goal of the post is, who your ideal audience is, what success looks like and how to measure it. Now it’s time to get busy with the actual SEO side of things.

First, keyword research. One of the best and simplest tools, straight from the horse’s mouth, is Google’s AdWords keyword research tool, available free inside your Google account. It’s best to limit things to three to five keyword phrases per post, not too onerous to identify and easy enough to fit into a single blog post without veering towards keyword stuffing, where you use so many keywords your blog post reads like a dog and comes across as blatantly playing the system.

Ideally, choose keywords with a reasonably high volume and low competition, where lots of people search for the phrase in question, but there aren’t too many competing businesses wanting to rank for it. The longer the phrases, the more targeted they are. As you can imagine, someone searching for the keyword ‘biro’ is less likely to buy a biro than someone who types ‘buy a biro’ into Google.

Also bear in mind the post’s goal and make sure the keywords you choose reflect that goal accurately. All the keywords you pick should demonstrate the same searcher intent, helping people achieve the same end result or a similar one.

Get that post written!

Now you have all the ammo you need to write the post. If your website is on WordPress, you’re lucky. The CMS makes it really easy to format, for a start, and also makes it simple to get the on-page SEO side of things right. There are all sorts of SEO plug-ins available but the best-loved and most popular is the Yoast SEO plug-in. It provides a series of boxes to fill in under every post, where you put the main keyword and the meta data, along with traffic light-style colour-coded guidance about what you’ve done right and what could be improved.

Optimising images and video, plus proper formatting

As well as the words, you should optimise the images you use in your post for search engines, any infographics and, of course, video using a text transcript. Then there’s the formatting. Use an H2 header and H3 subheads to help readers identify the information they are looking for and search rengines pick out your priorities. Use bullets, numbered lists, emboldening and italics intelligently for the same reasons.

Amplifying your reach – the promotion bit

You’ve said brilliant things. Now you need to tell people you’ve said brilliant things. These days it’s no good posting information without promoting it, since social ‘ signals’ are an important part of search engine algorithms. If someone writes a post that their social communities share and link to, it’ll beat a post that hasn’t been shared and linked to.

Learn and move on

Because you’ve set parameters for success and know exactly what success looks like, you can learn from the experience and carry the lessons forward to improve your results next time. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, and you will start to get somewhere.

Very few of us score a big hit with our first post, or even with our first hundred posts. But the planning, optimising and learning process enhances your chances of making a big impact with your audience at one point or another. And, in the meantime, optimising every post will have a small yet important positive effect on your natural search rankings.