1994 was the year Justin Hall, a college undergraduate, created links.net – the world’s first blog. Back then it was just a few links, a little text and a couple of pictures.
Blogs have come a long way since. Fast forward to today and there are now an estimated 500 million blogs worldwide.
What is a blog?
“Blog” is a shortened form a “weblog”, meaning a record of opinions, thoughts and experiences published online for others to read.
From a business point of view, blogs are widely considered one of the most powerful online marketing tools – boosting your search engine ranking, building your brand and growing a community of prospective customers.
It’s not as easy as posting an article with your features and benefits though. To harness the true marketing power of a blog, your articles need to be the perfect blend of information, entertainment and optimisation.
So how do you achieve this magical blend? Well, here are our tips on how to write top-ranking, optimised blog posts.
Why write a blog?
First, let’s discuss why bother writing a blog in the first place. You’ve got your website and your social media channels. Do you really need to invest in another online marketing channel?
Well, yes you do. Because without a blog you’re limiting the impact and reach of your website and social media, because…
1. Blogs drive traffic to your website via search engines
A blog is an important piece of your online marketing puzzle as it can drive traffic to your website through Search Engine Results Page (SERP). A carefully researched blog plan allows you to use your content to rank for a wider range of keyphrases. Your website contains limited content. With a blog, you create more indexable pages, and if the pages are optimised correctly, you’ll have more opportunities to rank.
And with each new post, your reach will get wider. The wider your reach, the more clicks you are likely to get on your domain, which helps your search engine rankings too.
What’s more, sites that are frequently updated are boosted by search engines like Google too, and a well-maintained blog is an easy way to keep your website content fresh.
2. Blogs drive traffic to your website via social media
Aside from the SERP, blogs also give you content to share via social media to encourage click-throughs to your website, generate leads and build your brand. If your content is interesting and entertaining, people will share it, broadening your reach.
3. Blogs build your brand and market your business
Blogs are a great way to attract an audience and build a community. As people interact with your content on social media, it markets your brand to new potential customers and builds your reputation as an authority in your field.
And as more people visit your website, mention your brand name and share your content, Google will see you as an authority too, and boost your ranking accordingly.
Blogs also give you a platform to get your persona across. With limited pages on your website, it can be difficult to connect with your audience and demonstrate your brand values. Through a blog you can build a relationship with people, tell your brand story and show what is important to your company. As your audience gets to know you, you build trust, authority and relevance. This can promote repeat purchases and gently move leads through the buying process – not to mention boost your search engine rankings.
4. Blogs can be used to build links
Link building is an important SEO strategy and blog articles are a great networking tool that you can use to create links. Guest blogging, commenting and blog directories are effective outreach strategies that can build links to your site and boost your SEO. These links should be relevant though and from authoritative sites. Spammy link building sites and paid promotional posts can actually negatively affect your SEO, so it’s important to build links legitimately.
What should you write about on your blog?
1. How to choose a blog topic
All successful blogs need a content plan that’s based on sound keyphrase research.
In the research process, you’ll decide what keyphrases users might be searching for and which ones you want your website to rank for. You would then look at who currently ranks for these phrases and try to create blog content that trumps the competition and therefore, tops the SERP rank.
For example, if you own a hotel that offers deals for hen parties, “hen party packages” is a keyphrase that might pop up in your research. You’d then want to write a top-ranking, optimised post related to this phrase for your blog.
The key to a good, shareable blog is to make your articles useful. Add value to the reader by informing, educating and entertaining, but don’t go for the hard sell. You need to get inside the head of your target consumer, understand what questions they need answered or what information they may find useful or interesting. Anticipate what they might look for and what language they could use.
You can also conduct research with freedom of information requests and/or surveys to uncover newsworthy content that will pique the interest of your target
2. Decide on your target user’s intent
When using search engines, a user can have a different motivation, desired outcome or intent. There are 4 main types of user intent:
Lots of searches on the internet are made by people who are looking for information about a given topic e.g. the weather, educating children or SEO. In this case, people have a specific question relating to the topic or they simply want to know more about it.
People with this intent are trying to locate a specific website e.g. people who search for “Solve Web Media” know where they want to go, they just need to find the site.
Users with this intent are ready to make a purchase, but they are using a search engine to locate the best deal e.g. “Nike Air Force 1 size 7”.
Some people have the intention to buy in the near future, but use the web to do their research first. Users with this intent ask search engines queries like “what washing machine would be best?” or “which SEO plugin is the most helpful?”. These people also have transactional intent but they need more time and convincing before they’re ready to buy.
As a content creator, you need to decide what your target user’s intent is and sculpt your content in order to meet this intent.
3. What type of content to post on your blog
People are attracted to things that benefit them, so teach your readers something, answer a question or give them useful information. They’re much more likely to share an article they find useful or helpful, whether they’re interested in your business or not.
Tips, how-tos, top 10s, question/answers articles are great ways to share your knowledge, and hopefully others will share it too, which builds your brand, markets your business and boosts your SEO.
Here are some other types of content you can include on your blog:
- How-to’s and Tutorials
- Resource Lists
- Cheat Sheets, Checklists and To-do’s
- Controversial Posts
- Video content
- Guest Posts
- Blog Series
- White Papers
Whatever you choose to write about, research your topic thoroughly and cite your sources. No one is going to share a wishy-washy post with questionable figures. Your article needs legs, impress your audience with your expertise, industry knowledge and connections.
Once you’ve decided what to write, it’s important to stick to your content plan. Blog regularly, at least once a month, or you risk undoing all your branding-building, SEO-boosting efforts.
So, how do you write a top-ranking, keyword-rich blog post?
Now the good stuff. You’ve got your plan, you’ve got your topic, but how do you write an optimised blog article?
Writing a top-ranking, optimised blog post is about finding a balance between writing for search engines and writing for users. In fact, you should write for the user first, but you need to make sure some key bases are covered in order to get the SEO effect too.
How do you structure a blog post?
1. Develop a clickable title, without using clickbait
Your title is what will appear in the SERP so it’s essential that it grabs the attention of users. Your article will be one in a long list of many, so it’s important to make yours stand out. You need to introduce your article in the most intriguing way possible. “How” or “why” are good words to include as they address users’ questions. In fact, your title can be a question itself, mirroring the query of your target user. If you’re writing a list of reasons why or a top 10, include the number in your title. And contrary to what you might think, odd numbers can be just as enticing as even ones.
Don’t be tempted to use clickbait though. Your title needs to accurately reflect the content of your article to avoid disappointing users and increasing your bounce rate.
2. Start with a compelling introduction
If people are clicking on your article, then congratulations, you’ve done a great job with your title. When people get to your post, you need to continue the intrigue with a compelling introduction that encourages people to read on.
Your first sentence is the most important. Start with a hook like a question or interesting fact or figure that’ll pique their interest. Then, set the tone of the article, introduce the topic and give away clues to what you’re going to talk about. Include enough intrigue that people want to read on, without giving away too much.
3. Break paragraphs up into manageable chunks
You need to make sure your writing is structured well. Break it up into manageable paragraphs. We live in a fast-paced digital world and chunky text instantly puts people off – they simply don’t have the time. Also, bear in mind that most people will view your content on mobile. Paragraphs look much longer on small devices than wide desktop screens.
4. Use subheadings
Subheadings are a great way to break up paragraphs and make them easier to digest. In a recent survey, 43% of people admitted to skimming blog posts, rather than reading in detail. Subheadings standout and attract these types of readers, giving you extra opportunities to keep them engaged. What’s more, search engine bots crawl or scan in a similar way, so subheadings are ideal spots for keyphrases.
5. Keep your language simple
With blogs articles, the simpler the language the better. Shorter sentences are easier to read. And contrary to the grammar rules you might have learnt at school, it’s better to start sentences with transition words like ‘and’ or ‘but’ to encourage people to continue reading – like I just did.
We don’t recommend flowery, complicated vocabulary either. Use simple language that’s easy to understand for most people. Avoid jargon, or be prepared to explain it.
Also avoid passive sentences – they are not easily processed (sounds robotic, doesn’t it?). People process active sentences (like this one) much easier, as they’re more natural.
Write like you talk. Use active language, use slang if you want, you can even choose a preposition to end with (you see what I did there?!). The purpose of a blog is to build relationships and demonstrate your brand personality, so be brave and let your true colours show. You want to entertain, not bore.
Don’t be tempted to waffle though. No one has time for waffle.
6. But remember your spelling and grammar!
But beware – writing like you talk doesn’t give you licence to completely forget about spelling and grammar. People need to understand after all, and spelling mistakes can create entertainment for all the wrong reasons. Grammar can be the difference between knowing your s*%t, and knowing you’re s*%t!
7. Conclude and include a call-to-action
Don’t just stop your post abruptly. Conclude what you’ve been talking about and sum up the main points. And don’t forget to add the all-important call-to-action. You’ve successfully got the visitors to your site and they’ve read right through your value-add post. You’ve put a lot of work in up to this point, so don’t lose them here. Now’s your chance to convert a simple browser to a fully-fledged lead. Ask readers to comment, contact you for further information, visit a page on your site to read on or subscribe to future posts. This is a critical part of your blog post, so don’t fall at the final hurdle.
How long should blog posts be for SEO?
We get asked this question a lot, and there’s no simple answer. There’s no magic word count that will rocket your content to the top of the SERP. Different search queries and different users require different lengths of content to satisfy their needs. A short article may not answer a user’s question fully, but unnecessarily long content might bore them to death!
You need to focus on the quality of your content, rather than the quantity. Make sure you answer the search query and address user intent as fully as possible – but without blabbering on. Structure your content well and use images, videos and infographics where possible to keep users engaged.
How do you optimise and promote your blog content?
How do you add keywords to your blog post?
This is where you need the keyphrases that you defined initially. For your article to appear on the SERP for specific keyphrases, you need these in your content.
The key areas to add your keyphrases (or keywords) are:
- The article title
- Naturally, peppered throughout the content itself
- The page title (the title that appears in the SERP)
- Meta description (the description that appears in the SERP)
- URL (the web address of your blog article)
It’s critical to use the keyphrases naturally though. Keyword stuffing is a major no-no and can get your site blacklisted by search engines like Google. Getting your keyphrase in the title and meta description can be especially tricky. For both of these, you need to summarise what your article is about, insert the necessary keyphrase and make it as clickable as possible, all in a natural way, and within specific character counts. It’s a bit like learning to pat your head and rub your stomach – it’s a skill.
But how many keywords should you use in a blog post? We recommend you choose one main keyphrase to focus on and include 3-4 other closely related phrases e.g. if “planning a new kitchen” was your main keyphrase, you might also include additional phrases like “new kitchen”, “perfect kitchen” and “tips for planning a kitchen”.
If you’ve got a WordPress site, there are built-in tools to assess the SEO and readability of your article when you’re finished. They highlight any areas that can be improved and give you a preview of what your article will look like on the SERP.
Using social media to promote your blog content
Once you’ve finished your article and optimised it, you need to promote it. And social media is the best platform to share your work. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are all great sites to post your articles to. You need to accompany your links with appealing captions, posts and images where appropriate and don’t forget to include some relevant hashtags. Lead people in with an interesting point from your article, direct them to your blog and encourage them to share and/or comment.
If you manage to do all of this right, people will share your content, which creates natural links to your site – a major SEO benefit.
So, do our tips on how to write top-ranking, optimised blog posts really work? Let’s take a look at some examples…
Case Study 1 – Base Campers
We wrote this top-ranking post for the lovely team at Base Campers following our top blogging tips as outlined above, and it had some impressive results.
The optimised post went live on April 29th and since then, just 5 months later, the blog article alone ranks for 220 keyphrases in Google UK.
Out of that 220, the keyphrases that drive the most traffic to the site include “california t5 vs t6″ (ranking 1st in Google UK), “t5 t6 vw” (ranking 1st in Google UK), “what is the best vw transporter engine” (ranking 2nd in Google UK), and “difference between t5 and t6 vw” (ranking 2nd in Google UK).
There are so many more, like we mentioned, 220! We just couldn’t list that many.
*At the time of writing this article, these stats were accurate. Google does fluctuate.
Since the blog post went live 4,344 users visited the site by coming across the blog post using search engines, as detailed by the graph below.
Not only that, the blog post has been read 6,374 times altogether.
The blog post appears in position 0 (the answer box) for a range of queries:
Results like these make us pretty happy. And our clients are too!
Case Study 2 – Holiday Accommodation
For this client, we’ve been planning, researching, creating and optimising their blog posts for the last couple of years. This is how it helped…
Below lists their top 5 website pages users are landing on when clicking from search engines (over the course of the last year):
As you can see, 5,885 users have landed on the homepage throughout the last year and 5,526 on the ‘Five secret places in Cornwall’ blog post. That’s not much in it! And within the top 5 pages users land on when coming from search engines, 4 of these are blog posts.
The five secret places blog post (the best-performing blog post) ranks for 48 keyphrases in Google UK. Here is just a snapshot: “Cornwall Secret Places” (ranking 2nd), “Cornwall Hidden Gems” (ranking 5th), “Quiet Places in Cornwall” (ranking 4th), and “Secret Walks Cornwall” (ranking 3rd).
All these are terms users search for and they direct good, relevant traffic to the site. Not only that, this blog post has been viewed 6,004 times in the last year.
One blog post about train journeys in Cornwall has been viewed 4,065 times in the last year.
*At the time of writing this article, these stats were accurate. Google does fluctuate.
These demonstrate, quite clearly, that well-written blog posts can boost your ranking and help drive traffic to your website. And if the posts engage, inform and entertain visitors once they get to your site, you’ve got the dream combination that’ll help drive your sales.
No time to write blog posts?
Writing an effective blog article isn’t as easy as it seems and it can be time-consuming. But the marketing power of a well-written optimised blog is huge. Well-written, well-promoted, well-shared blogs build your brand, advertise your business and boost your SEO.
If you need extra help or simply don’t have the resources to manage a blog effectively in house, our expert team of geeks and geekesses can do it all for you, from content planning and writing to promotion and optimisation.
To get noticed in the blogging world, give us a call today. Leave us a comment below if you have any ideas on how to boost your blog post.