You'll struggle to find someone who hasn't received the memo about the importance of posting content consistently. But it becomes far too easy to write a blog just for the sake of it. If you want to see results, you've got to write with SEO in mind.
Content for content’s sake is crap. Any ol’ Tom, Dick or even Harry can spin an article or fudge some copy together in the hopes of improving their rankings. But the real trick is to craft content that your readers actually give a monkey’s about.
So; flesh out a fictional picture of your intended reader. Their hopes and dreams. Their fears and weaknesses. Their favourite crisp. Step into their moccasins and put some wordage together that targets a specific pain point, that helps answer a legitimate query or is just actually useful for the person in that role. Your blog needs a purpose. Writing with a persona in mind will keep you on target, helping you focus your research and writing no end!
Pro Tip – the best personas (while fictional) should be based on people or customers you actually know, ideally backed up with market research.
2. Search Term Research
Personas in hand, your next step should be to research the words, terms and phrases your prospects are typing into search bars. There’s a couple of ways to investigate and sniff out those target phrases. Which you use really depends on how much time you’ve got to turn this bit of content around.
The quick and dirty way would be to just use Google Trends, Answer The Public or Google Autosuggest to get a rough idea of what phrases your audience use. If you’re up for a challenge though, pull your finger out and find out the actual volumes and competition of those individual phrases using tools like SEMrush or Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
The most important thing to note is that bigger (search volume) isn’t always better. Picking specific long tail phrases might not get searched as often, but will be a lot less competitive (therefore you're more likely to rank). In fact long tail searches tend to be looking for very specific information, making them the perfect seed for a blog post.
Pro Tip – get that all-important search term in the blog body early. The more prominent your term is in the article the clearer the focus of the page is to search engines.
You’ve done your research, and now it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard?). Hopefully you’ve found your target search terms by now so you should be happy with the words you're gonna type, but what language are you going to use? By language I don’t mean Greek or Glaswegian… What I’m talking about is the personality of your writing. It doesn’t matter if your blog is #1 in SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), if the tone of your writing isn’t in line with your audience it’s not going to be particularly engaging.
To be uber specific, here’s what I mean when I’m talking about TOV –
Tone: Your personality described in an adjective. For instance, brands can be lively, positive, cynical, or professional.
Voice: A subset of your voice. Tone adds specific flavour to your voice based on factors like audience, situation, and channel.
Pro Tip – TOV can be hard to discern, often it’s easier to decide what your online voice shouldn’t be e.g. flippant, boring, high brow...
4. Optimise Everything
Well not everything… overuse and repetition of the same terms will look hella spammy and there’s a chance you’ll get flagged for keyword stuffing. The most important places search engines will look for keyword relevance are:
- The URL
- Page Title
- Image Alts
- The blog copy itself (duh)
Make sure your target phrase appears once in each of those locations and you’ll be a shoo-in. While not technically a ranking factor, you should optimise your meta descriptions too. They should ideally include your long tail search phrase to help improve your click rate and indicate to readers that your blog is the one they’re looking for.
Pro Tip – use synonymous terms in the main body of your copy to avoid stuffing, but keep your target phrase consistent in your URLs, Page Titles etc. so you can maintain the focus of your blog.
5. Mobile Friendliness
Typically, your blog is going to be read on the go on someone’s mobile or tablet (This shouldn’t be news to you). It’s therefore super important that your blog reads well on narrow screens. To make your blog mobile friendly make sure you take note of the following:
- Keep your font sizes legible – no one wants to squint at their screen
- Evenly space your links – clickable elements need to be fat-finger-friendly
- Format your copy with headings, bullets or images – walls of text are snooze-inducing
- Keep an eye on your word count – if you can help it, try to prevent a long scroll.
If you want to go one further you could even create your blogs using Google's AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) framework, this will remove a lot of the hassle and ensure your blog looks awesome on mobiles.
Pro Tip – while it pays to keep your content concise, try and avoid unnecessarily thin copy. 250 words or less and there’s an argument that there’s not enough on page for your blog to be considered useful or “quality”.
Backlinks pointing at your blog will bolster your content’s visibility in search a great deal, but you probably already knew that, right? If you can legitimately acquire or syndicate some quality links to your blog, you’ll already be in a better position than most your competition at this point as you’ll be passing some all-important trust and relevance on to your content. It’s not just about the inbound linkage though. A well optimised blog post also needs to internally link to resources, pages and blogs on your own site to help push visitors onto more of your sites content as well as help improve the rankings of those pages.
Pro Tip – quality is better than quantity when it comes to inbound links, stay away from cheap bought links from spurious looking link farms.
Any half decent blog post should make proper use of engaging and relevant images. We’re not talking about 1 poxy featured image, but some consistent pictures filtered throughout your compelling copy. Please please please steer clear of stock photography… it looks crap and won’t impress your readers in the slightest. Here's a blog post our Creative Director wrote about royalty free sites that don’t have pics that look pants.
Once you’ve got your images you need to optimise them (not just for Alt Text). Crop or resize your images using a consistent aspect ratio and most importantly reduce the file size as much as you can bear without trashing the quality of the images. Your page load time will suffer drastically if you use a handful of HQ 5MB photos in your blog. Run your images through an image editor like Adobe Photoshop, Canva or PicMonkey first and be sure to look carefully at the quality options when saving your images and you should be a in good shape.
Pro tip – if you’re using other people's images under a Creative Commons licence make sure you accredit the original owner at the foot of your blog.