Have you thought about how your audience will discover your blog? Sharing links to your recent blog posts via social media or emailing your followers is certainly one way, but your reach will be limited. On the other hand, many people search for topics in your niche every day on Google and other search engines. What if your blog would show up as one of the first search results, and people just had to click on it?
If you want to make it to the top position, then you can’t get around search engine optimization (SEO). It’s an ever-evolving discipline, but there are fundamentals that every blogger should apply. And that’s exactly what this blog post is about. Before we show you the seven fundamental SEO best practices, we have to clear up a pervasive misconception.
Will your top-level domain affect SEO?
Let’s get this out of the way first. Many still believe that the .com TLD has the best chances of topping search engine rankings. And we can’t blame them since .com sites are usually the ones showing up in the first few positions. However, this is mostly the case because as much as 48% of websites worldwide end with .com.
Because of this misconception, bloggers might shy away from using new gTLDs like .blog. The truth is, though, that all TLDs are treated equally by search engines. Google has made this crystal clear. Every TLD can rank in the top position if SEO practices are adopted. Let us help you get closer to your dream search engine ranking.
7 fundamental SEO best practices for bloggers
SEO is a complex topic with many nuances. As a blogger, you probably don’t want to become an SEO expert. You’d rather focus on your writing. So, to make SEO easy for you, we’ve distilled the seven most important best practices that you can start implementing on your blog immediately.
1. Create quality evergreen content
One of the most important rules in blogging will help with your SEO, too: focussing on quality. Search engines tend to reward long-form, in-depth articles while shallow, short content stuffed with keywords will lose over time. So, how long should your blog post be ideally? Sources suggest that a word count of around 1,760 is best for SEO.
Another crucial SEO tip is to write your blog posts with the aim of staying relevant and valuable over a long time (with some minor updates). That’s called evergreen content and will help you score a steady stream of visitors. This is how you build your site’s authority over time.
2. Focus every blog post around 1-2 long-tail keywords
Keywords are what people search for in search engines. SEO specialists distinguish between short-tail keywords like “blog post” and long-tail keywords like “how to optimize a blog post for SEO.” When people search for the latter, they are looking for a specific solution. There’s more intent.
We’d recommend focusing each blog post around one or two long-tail keywords. They are usually less competitive, so it’s easier to rank better. There are plenty of tools available to research the best long-tail keywords for your blog posts. You could try Google’s Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest for free, or a paid more advanced tool like ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.
3. Include your keywords strategically in your blog posts
Once you’ve chosen your keywords, make sure to include them in the right areas of your blog post to increase your chances of ranking high on the search engine results page (SERP). These are the four main places:
- Title tag: This is the first thing that search engines use to determine the relevancy of your content. Include your keyword in the first 60 characters of your title, so it doesn’t get cut off in the search results.
- Headlines, subheads, and body copy: Be sure to include your keywords in a natural, reader-friendly way. You don’t want to get penalized for keyword stuffing.
- Meta description: This is what appears right under your title on the SERP and is crucial for generating click-throughs. 150-160 characters is the ideal length.
- URL: Every blog post you publish lives on its own unique URL. It’s a good idea to include your keyword here, too.
4. Optimize your images
Your blog posts are likely not all text. Pictures and infographics not only add to your readers’ experience, but they also help with SEO. Make sure to give them a relevant title, file name and alt text. The image alt text tells search engines what your images are showing and should include your keywords. It’s also what appears on the screen when the image can’t load, giving your readers the necessary context.
5. Start link building
When other sites link to your blog, it’s a clear indication for search engines that you have a quality, authoritative site. In turn, you will start ranking higher. So, how do you receive more inbound links? Basically, by creating valuable content that others want to share. You can also reach out to other bloggers proactively and ask for guest blogging opportunities.
Besides inbound links, you should also include some outbound links to other sites in every blog post. And don’t forget to add internal links within your blog so that readers can discover other valuable content on your site.
6. Make your blog fast and mobile-friendly
More and more people are browsing on their smartphones or tablets. Search engines know that, of course, and reward websites that are mobile-friendly and load fast. To check if your blog meets these criteria, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and a website speed test like Pingdom.
How exactly do you improve your blog’s mobile-friendliness and speed? First, by using a responsive design that ensures that your site automatically adapts to smaller screen sizes. Second, by reducing the size of your images which could impact load speed. Squoosh is a handy tool for that.
7. Upload an XML sitemap
This one is a little technical, but can give you a simple SEO win. An XML sitemap is a file on your website that lists all important URLs, telling search engines proactively what pages you want them to notice. A simple plugin like Google XML Sitemaps for WordPress will help search engines to better understand and index your site.
What if you’ve implemented all best practices, and your blog is still not showing up on the first page of Google? SEO does take time and you have to be patient. There are no shortcuts to the number one spot unfortunately. As you keep following these tips, you will attract more visitors and slowly build the authority of your site. And even when you prioritize SEO, don’t forget to always write for humans first and search engines second.