The Fundamentals Of Blog Post SEO

In Content29 January 202022 Minutes

Increase blog traffic with 21 easily actionable SEO tips to make each post on your blog more organically successful.

No matter how great you think a blog post is, Google has the liberty to disagree. Their search algorithm doesn’t care about your passion or pride, it cares about code and crowd-sourced critical consensus.

If the post you’ve written doesn’t resonate with what Google’s crawlers are looking for from a technical SEO standpoint and isn’t good enough to encourage people to share it, you’re probably not going to see much success.

It makes no sense to give up at that point, though, you’ve already put in the bulk of the work by writing it in the first place. As with all things SEO, there’s always more optimisation to be done.

We’ve put together a comprehensive checklist of every single thing you can do to improve blog post performance in isolation. No large-scale sitewide changes required, just small actionable methods to get more traffic to your blog post.

Read on for the fundamentals of blog post SEO.

Rewrite meta data

The title tag you write for your post is one of the weightiest direct ranking factors outside of the content itself and external backlinks. Take a look at the results page for one of your primary keywords and you’ll probably notice a trend, with the same keyword or a close variation appearing in most competitor title tags.

Including your primary keyword in the title tag for the post, ideally in a prominent position and always naturally written, could help you to see some quick ranking improvements.

The meta description you write for the post, although not a direct ranking factor, is also important to optimise. A well written meta description can improve CTR, giving you more clicks at the same ranking position. Try including your primary keyword or close variations of it to see some on-SERP bolding that can help you to stand out.

Nest headings

An ideal heading structure logically nests topics and sub-topics, essentially creating an easy to understand flow of information which helps to lend context about the structure of your post to Google. For example, on a post about custard, the heading structure might be something like:

H1: Everything You Need To Know About Custard

H2: The History Of Custard

H2: The Science Behind Custard

                H3: Custard’s Molecular Structure

                H3: Is Custard A Solid Or A Liquid?

                H2: Custard Recipes

                                H3: Vanilla Custard

                                                H4: Ingredients

                                                H4: Method

                                H3: Custard Creams

                                                H4: Ingredients

                                                H4: Method

                H2: Best Places To Buy Custard

Make sure that you’ve segmented your post into appropriate headings to split it up for users while also leaving clues for Google’s crawlers about each section’s focus.

The H1 of a blog post is the on-page title, so spend some time making it right. You can optimise H1s in much the same way as you do title tags, focusing around a primary keyword while making sure it still accurately describes the post.

Reorder information

Outside of properly organising your content with a nested heading structure, optimising the order of information in the post to make it as intuitive to read as possible can have wide-reaching benefits. Moving the most important parts of the post to the top of the page and then expanding with more detail lower down is beneficial to any searchers seeking a quick answer. Google likes to please searchers, so heavily consider what the user wants when you’re trying to improve the structure of your blog posts.

Update content for freshness

If the post you’re trying to improve is old and outdated, sometimes all that’s needed is an update. Bringing content into the present with the most recent information on the topic, new links to recent authority posts, and a note that highlights to users that the information is fresh can improve the relevance of your post dramatically.

Improve semantic relevance

The idea of semantic keywords – keywords that are semantically related to the main topic of your post, such as ‘whiskers’ in a post about cats – is hotly debated in SEO communities. Some SEOs think they’re a non-factor, others think they’re incredibly important.

What’s not up for debate is the fact that Google does use word co-occurrence and clustering to help them understand the topic of web pages. How big an influence the presence of semantically related keywords is on rankings is still unknown, but if you’re looking for potential wins on an aged blog post, sprinkling in some more keywords from the main topic’s semantic group can’t hurt.

Insert more media

As a rule, attention spans are shorter than they used to be. Give users too many words to read without a nice break in the form of a picture, infographic, video, or other media element and they might lose interest in your post.

With this in mind, when you come to updating a blog post to improve its performance, consider what relevant media elements you can incorporate to recapture readers’ interest and keep them engaged and on the page for longer.

Add new sections

A more traditional (and practically foolproof) way of improving blog performance is to just write more. Although prominent Googlers in SEO circles consistently deny any link between content length and ranking potential, studies have shown significant correlation between the two.

This isn’t to say that you’re going to be able to rank page 1 for a competitive keyword by just writing lots of anything. Focus on adding more detail to your post wherever you feel it’s needed, expanding out sections to be more comprehensive, and even diversifying the post’s focus to include closely related topics in new sections. Also, remember that some topics just don’t need much detail. If there’s nothing more to say, don’t try and say it.

Target SERP features

SERP features such as featured snippets, People Also Ask boxes, and newer types of structured data are on the rise. Modern Google SERPs are diverse and, although they might be taking clicks away from websites in some cases, they’re also offering opportunities to stand out from competitors in others.

Audit the SERP feature opportunities for your post using a tool like Ahrefs and target them in rewrites for improved visibility on the SERP.

optimise featured snippets

Review outbound linking strategy

As counter intuitive as it might seem to include external links leading to other sites in your post, it’s a solid strategy for boosting the authority and usefulness of the page. Include external links to quality pages when relevant (if you mention a complex topic in passing, for instance), to provide more value to the reader and potentially see a jump in rankings. Taking advantage of link building services and implementing a strong strategy will help you to make the most of outbound, and inbound links.

Create more inbound links

Just as linking out to external authorities can help your post, generating more inbound links through outreach or internal link optimisation elsewhere on your site is a must if you’re trying to strengthen your blog post.

Links from external sites are the ultimate signal of trust and authority to Google, so a strong outreach campaign to promote your blog post has the most potential benefit. However, it’s arguably more difficult than ever to get links easily so, if you’re looking for a strategy that’s a little more approachable, turn to your own site instead.

Adding more internal links to your target post from related pages on your website – whether that’s other blog posts, category pages, or even the homepage – highlights its importance to Google, while also helping to direct more on-site traffic to it.

Add trust signals

Trust signals on your website are absolutely essential in the age of fake news, especially when it comes to sites that concern money or health. Elements that help build trust can both reassure users that the information you’re providing is legitimate and well-researched while also giving Google’s search algorithm all the evidence it needs to understand that you’re trustworthy.

Examples of trust signals you can add to a blog post include an author biography that highlights why the author is qualified to write about the subject, a comments section that encourages honest communication from users, and external citations to studies or other authoritative posts that reinforce your point.

Include data

Including data in posts, whether through independent research you’ve carried out yourself or by using existing data that suits your story, is another great way to improve its authority. Data is an irrefutable signal to Google that you’ve done your research, and it’s great for getting readers engaged too. It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking stuff, a sensible visualisation of relevant stats (such as the made-up bar chart below) will do.

Outside of the SEO benefits, studies have shown that including data in ads increases their persuasiveness, and we’d argue the same is true about blog posts.

chart showing effect of data on traffic

Check competitor posts

Checking out the competition on Google by searching your primary keywords and reading the top-ranking posts can be an invaluable way of discovering what you might be missing in your own post. If you spot some commonalities between all the posts that appear on the first page (they all use the same word in the H1, for example), you’ll probably want to follow suit.

Ensure mobile friendliness

Mobile users make up a larger and larger percentage of the search market with each year that passes, surpassing the number of desktop searchers in countries like the USA and Japan as long ago as 2015. With this change in the way that most searches are carried out, Google responded by switching their focus towards mobile experiences instead of desktop, with mobile first indexing rolling out to a huge number of sites since September 2018.

This means it’s now critical that you prioritise mobile friendliness to ensure the best user experience for the majority of your readers. Ways you can do this on blog posts without completely redesigning your site to better suit mobile include writing better hooks to appear above the fold on mobile, minimising images to avoid slow page load speeds, and making use of page links that can take users directly to the section they’re interested in from the top of the page.

Add structured data

Structured data is far from new but it’s currently having its moment in the SEO community. You can add structured data to the code on your website to label content sections and provide more detail to Google’s crawlers. From organisation data such as company name to markup for specific FAQ sections, the options are basically limitless.

If you have development resources, you can fairly easily inject structured data into your post for quick benefits. ‘How to’ schema, ‘FAQ’ schema, and ‘author’ schema are particularly relevant to blog posts but check out the full list to see what else might help. You can make sure your structured data is implemented correctly using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Some structured data can improve your visibility on SERPs, too. In the example below, a section of the page that’s been marked up with FAQ schema is being pulled onto the results page, with expandable sections that increase the amount of vertical space the listing takes up and provide more detail to users.

faq schema

Redirect old posts

If you’re working with a site that’s got a huge amount of content amassed over years, it might be that the post you’re trying to improve is competing internally with several other pages covering the same topic.

Seek out any similar posts from the past by using a site: search or Google Search Console query filters, and if they add no value to the site, set up a 301 redirect pointing to the new page.

This is a signal to Google that the content from the old URL is no longer the best version on the site, and that the new post is better qualified to serve any users that might have ended up on the old post.

Theoretically, a correctly implemented 301 redirect will pass over any of the intangible ‘link equity’ the old page picked up over the years to the destination URL, as well as reducing keyword competition from your own site (and the confusing signals that presents to Google).

Remove any broken outbound links

Broken outbound links that point to pages that have a 404 status code can be damaging to any webpage, including a blog post. They’re a negative signal to Google, in that they indicate that the post is outdated and taking users to unavailable external resources. Worse than that, though, they’re also just bad for users.

Check all of the links in your blog posts to ensure that they’re not leading to 404 errors and, if they are, either find a replacement destination or remove the link altogether.

Add social sharing capabilities

People love to share things they find interesting and people love social media. Capitalise on both of these facts by helping your readers to share your post with dedicated share buttons for the largest social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter are the essentials). A huge number of blogs already have social sharing buttons, but if yours doesn’t – consider adding them.

It should be noted that avoiding any sacrifice in user experience is critical here. Lots of users don’t like sticky social sharing buttons that follow them down the page, so be wary. Also keep track of how much the buttons are used once you’ve added them. If they never get clicked, it might mean that your audience simply isn’t interested in social media sharing, in which case they can be removed.

Optimise images

It’s not just meta data and text that can be optimised, images are fair game too. Images can be optimised in several ways, including by reducing the size through a compressing tool and adding image alt tags.

Alt tags are designed to be used for accessibility reasons – helping visually impaired users who have screen readers understand what images are on the page – but they’re also read by Google. Optimise your alt tags by using them to properly describe what the image displays, using keywords with search volume if possible. This could not only improve the contextual relevance of the page they’re used on to the primary search terms, but also help them to rank in Google Image Search.

Promote on social media

Planning and writing a post is only half of the battle, it’s all for nothing if nobody reads it. Outside of on-site users reaching it through internal links and organic entrances from strong SEO, a third acquisition method to consider is social media.

If you already have established social media accounts, particularly on content-heavy platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, share your post there. This can drive clicks and engagement, as well as providing some links to your post from other websites (although it should be noted that backlinks from social media platforms are thought to be mostly inconsequential).

Use skyscraper link-building methods

The final method to improve blog traffic through strengthened organic performance is to use what’s known by SEOs as skyscraper link-building. This involves finding a similar piece of content to yours that performs well, improving on every element of it in your blog, and then contacting sites that currently link to the competing piece and letting them know you have a superior version.

This can result in excellent success rates if carried out properly thanks to peoples’ inherent desire to only be interested in the best of something. You don’t exactly care how tall the 6th largest building in the world is, now, do you?

Download the blog post SEO fundamentals checklist

Download our editable checklist to track your progress as you update and optimise your blog post to improve its organic success.