So you want to write a blog post.
Your first problem: use the computer, not the pen.
You want it to be found and read by people, obviously, but you’re afraid that trying to fill it up with those shady best SEO practices will make it nonsensical. You’ve probably read that sort of “SEO copy” before, and even if you didn’t know it was to game search results, you can tell it’s only a small step up from a sales pitch:
“Looking for Thanksgiving rings? I found a great Thanksgiving ring recently, and if you’re in the market for rings for Thanksgiving, this post may be of interest to you. Thanksgiving jewelry is all the rage with teens these days, and if you want stylish Thanksgiving jewels for this November’s Thanksgiving, read on.”
In the old days, this kind of crap worked. It’s called keyword stuffing, and it made your writing hard to read – but Google was a kid in a candy store and this crap was the primo sugary chocolate.
Luckily for you, Google grew up and got on a health kick. You don’t have to do that kind of thing anymore.
Here’s how you write a good blog post these days.
Note for experienced SEOs: This is an introductory post that I like to give to my personal clients for reference. If you do SEO professionally, you can probably skip this one – I just needed somewhere to put it and figured it worked OK here. This is geared towards potential writers who don’t want to learn advanced SEO, so I’m a little fast and loose with ranking factors and best blog practices – so don’t nitpick, okay?
1. Focus On The User – Write Well
This is almost too obvious, but it’s by far the most important factor. Write good content. Write in your style. Have a style, and own that style. Think of your ideal reader, and write what they want to read.
Duh, right? I know you need more tips than just that. But it’s the biggest thing there is. If you’re undecided between doing one thing or another, always come back to what’s best for the user.
Got that? It’s really important. FOCUS ON THE USER.
2. Headings And Subheadings
Structure is important. The architecture of your post is important. It’s great for search engines and it helps users scan your writing better – that’s what people do on the internet now, you know, they scan and skim more than they really read deep.
That’s not a bad thing. You’re writing a blog post, not a classic American novel.
The title of your blog post should be an H1 in the code. It should also be the only H1 on the whole page.
Then, use subheadings in the post. You’ll for sure use a few H2s – for example, “1. Focus On The User – Write Well” and “2. Headings and Subheadings” in this post were both H2s. All the H2s are contained under the H1.
Can you use H3s? Yes, but make sure you use them appropriately. H3s should head paragraphs that all relate to the H2 above it. For instance:
- <h1>Thanksgiving Jewelry</h1>
---- <h2>What is Thanksgiving?</h2>
---- <h2>Types of Jewelry</h2>
---- <h2>Animals That Like Wearing Thanksgiving Jewelry</h2>
See how that works? Easy! Same with H4s and down, though you’ll very rarely have to use those.
If you need more examples, go to a Wikipedia page and notice how the table of contents at the top matches up with the subheading system in the article. Wikipedia does it right.
Only use heading tags in your main article. Don’t use heading tags elsewhere on your website, like the navigation or the footer. Remember, heading tags are only <h1> through <h6> – so if something looks like a heading, but only because it’s styled with a <span class=”heading-1″> tag, that doesn’t count.
“Should I use keywords in my headings?” Sure. Yes. Do it. But don’t force it. Usually, if you’re writing about a subject, it’s natural to mention the subject in the subheadings, and obviously in the main heading title. Do it if it sounds good, but if you have to force it, don’t.
3. Use Synonyms
If you’re talking about something and you’re not the worst writer in the world, you’ll probably use a variety of different words to talk about it. For instance, talking about Thanksgiving jewelry, you’ll also mention rings, earrings, jewels, turkeys, and holidays.
That’s only natural. And it’s good.
Now, I’m not saying you should open up your thesaurus and throw out every word you can find just to shoehorn more in. If it sounds weird, then don’t do it.
Again, this should happen in the normal course of writing anyway. I’m just saying it’s something you want to encourage in yourself.
In the old days, bolding a term was another helpful way to rank for that term.
Nowadays… I’m not going to say it’s not a factor at all, but if it is, it’s certainly much less of one.
That being said, I still believe it helps a little bit. And even if it doesn’t, it’s one more thing that helps a user in a big way.
As a general rule for myself, just personally here, I look for major ideas first in my writing, and bold them. Then if I notice a long paragraph or two, I pick the central idea for that text and bold it as well.
If there’s not a short phrase within those paragraphs that I can just easily bold to express the main idea of that section, then I probably didn’t write it very well in the first place. So it’s a great way to go back and edit and make sure you’re stating your ideas in clear, concise ways.
FYI, using <b> and <i> tags for bold and italics went out of style years ago. Use <strong> and <em> (for emphasis) now.
5. Include Interesting Images
Your writing may be great, but visual images and media drive people online. Sprinkle relevant images throughout your post.
A pallas cat thinking about what images to use on her next blog post. This is a highly relevant image.
However, don’t use images you don’t have permission to use. Don’t just go on Google Image Search and paste the first thing you find on your website – someone else probably owns that, and they can and will find you and sue you if they want. That’s a battle that you will not win.
Besides, how would you like it if someone copied your article and put it on their site? Not very much, I’ll bet. So don’t copy someone else’s image for your site. Common ethics here.
So how do you find images? Look up pictures that are public domain. Personally, I love Pixabay↝ for that. Take your own photos, too – that’s the very best, because that’s content exclusive to you. And if you have to use an image from somewhere else, at the very least, credit it!
Here are some tips for getting the most out of images.
- Rename the file to include some keywords from your article. Turn DSC_IMG_9425.jpg into mens-thanksgiving-rings.jpg.
- Include an alt attribute in the code. This is used if someone has images turned off in their web browser, or if they’re blind and using a screen reader. It also helps search engines understand what the image is about. Avoid making it exactly the same as the filename. For instance, alt=”A Thanksgiving ring on a man’s hand.” Describe the image!
- If it’s your photo or drawing, sign it. Or put a little semi-transparent watermark in the corner with your URL on it. Nothing that blocks the whole image – just enough to be read.
- For extra fun, add a title attribute to the image too. It doesn’t do anything for SEO, but when a user hovers their mouse cursor over the image, the title attribute is what pops up in that little yellow box. It’s a great way to add an extra comment about the image.
You know what else is great? Videos! Embed something from YouTube, Vimeo, etc. in your post if it’s relevant. But be aware that not everyone will be able to watch it – maybe they’re at work, or can’t load the data on their phone. So if there’s something vital in the video, restate it in the text below.
6. Use Lists
Everybody loves lists! With lists, like headers, I’m once again referring to lists in the HTML code. So while my subheadings on this post all have numbers, they’re not technically coded as lists.
However, the tips for images in the last section are indeed coded as a list.
There are two kinds of lists – an <ol> and a <ul>. OL is Ordered List, and is just a list with numbers.
- First, this is an ordered list.
- The second item in the list logically progresses after the first.
- Thirdly, these are good for recipe steps, priority lists, and more.
UL is Unordered List. That’s just a list with bullets.
- Unordered Lists could be rearranged without much consequence.
- Lists are, once again, easy for the user to scan.
- Unordered Lists are good for ingredients, items, and whatever else.
As always – you’re probably getting sick of reading this now – don’t force lists if they don’t fit in your current article. But if there’s an opportunity, take it!
7. Link. A Lot.
Are you touching on a subject that you covered in depth in an earlier post? Link to it! While linking to basically any of your own pages is good, the best thing to do is “deep linking” – which means, link to pages that would otherwise take multiple clicks to get to, starting from the homepage.
Not only does it help a reader get more information on the subject and stay on your website, it helps search engines get to those pages better too.
Listen, if your Thanksgiving Jewelry Company is in direct competition with those bastards across the street at President’s Day Jewelry Company, don’t link to them. Never link to a direct competitor. That’s a terrible idea.
However, linking to other quality websites that you don’t compete with is a must. It helps show your expertise, because you’re sharing these tools and resources with your readers. That means they’ll come back to you – people love being shared with!
It’s also good for search engines. Google’s like, “Wow, this Thanksgiving jewelry page links to the US government’s Thanksgiving page, the Official Association of Turkey Jewelers’ page, and this page on jewelry safety from the country of Turkey. These are all quality pages that I already know about! So this page is probably pretty quality too.”
It’s like being seen hanging out at the cool table 8)
Try to avoid linking to crappy websites, because that’s like being seen sitting with the unpopular folks. I can’t imagine anything worse.
8. Length Matters… A Little
If you have less than, like, 300 words to write about a subject, do you really even need to write about it?
If I find that I have 350 words on a subject and that’s it, even after inserting all of my
dumb jokes, I take a step back and think, “well, shit.” Then I go on to think, “what broader story does this post fit in – how do I make this a part of something bigger?”
Expand the story. Expand the post. Not with filler, though. With actual value. Depending on my mood, I monitor this wordcount in a loose way with either wordcounter.net↝ or the Hemmingway App↝. Hemmingway is pretty cool to check out because it also highlights problematic sentences, weird words, bad tones, and more – plus it gives you a reading level and a ballpark read-through time. I love that!
Don’t worry about “keyword density” or what percentage of your content your keywords are. Don’t even think about it.
Note that I’m just talking about wordcount. You don’t have to space out your article to make it take up more space on screen. Although, now that I bring that up, you should anyway.
You notice how I’m not writing in big paragraphs, and how I’m hitting enter after every few sentences?
Sometimes it’s only one sentence per line.
Even only four words.
That’s on purpose – it makes it easier to read. It feels unnatural to write like that at first (at least it did for me), but it makes a big difference. Trust me on that.
9. End With a Conclusion
Don’t just leave people hanging. It’s the basic high school writing structure – Intro, Body, Conclusion – and it works. Make it a point to make sure the last section summarizes your points and restates your opinions in a concise fashion.
And then, end that conclusion with a call to action. What do you want the person to do when they’re done reading? Do you want them to visit your portfolio? Do you want them to buy a product? Do you want them to comment?
Well, don’t be shy. Tell them. Be direct about it. And make it easy for them to do what you want, too – if you want to get them to contact you, make sure you don’t forget to link “Contact me now” to your contact page.
I put forward nine things you should do to make a great blog post here. What were they again? Let’s review.
- Focus on your reader!
- Use synonyms!
- Use correct heading tags!
- Use emphasis tags!
- Include images and media!
- List things out!
- Link a whole lot!
- Write long enough content!
- End with a conclusion!
How did I do in this very article?
- I focused on my reader by writing what I needed to write and doing so in a way that’s at least moderately entertaining.
- I used synonyms – blog post, content writing, etc.
- I used an H1 and H2s to structure my article – even snuck in a couple H3s under #7.
- I definitely used emphasis tags. Definitely.
- Do you see all the images around here? I do. I didn’t include video because it wasn’t relevant.
- I used lists both for examples and for actual content (like this one now).
- I definitely linked out to some cool resources. And I linked to some of my own pages too.
- Yeah, I think you’ll agree, this article is more than long enough.
- You are reading the conclusion right now.
Do you have any other tips for great blogging? Did I miss any great resources? Would you like to purchase some Thanksgiving jewelry? Let me know in the comments below – and then get out and start writing your own posts!
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