Writing engaging content for a blog is great. But writing that content with a purpose is even better. You want your posts to be discovered, and in turn, lead that traffic to your company's website. However, this doesn't just happen - active steps need to be taken while writing your blog content to increase your chances of being ranked highly on search engines, in order to naturally bring visitors to your page.
We've compiled a list of 8 essential steps to take into consideration when trying to increase your blog content's search rankings that often get overlooked during the process of writing posts. Each of these items can play a large role in the growth of your blog, and when done correctly, your business as well.
Check Title and h1 Tags
One of the big things to note when trying to increase search rankings is whether or not your title and h1 tags are targeting the keyword you're trying to rank for. Whether it's an exact match of a long tail keyword or a close variation, these tags should be keyword-rich. When possible, have titles and h1s that are slightly different, but still related to the overall content of the page. You want to make sure that when someone clicks on your result, you are not giving them a title that is entirely different from what they were searching. Don't set an expectation, and then deliver something completely different. People will leave the page if they are not finding what they are looking for. You do want something in the h1 to be a little more user friendly, but for it to still have keywords.
Sometimes it is difficult to include your keyword, other secondary keywords, and other relevant information in your title tag while still having it make sense. The titles often end up relatively plain. The h1 gives you can opportunity to expand on the information your title already provides and engage your audience a little more, especially if they are coming from outlets other than search engines. Whether it's from social, or referral sources, you want to make the h1 as enticing as possible for those visitors as well. Overall, these two tags are not that different from one another, but the h1 gives you slightly more leeway. You want to make sure they both have keywords when possible, and that they are both user friendly. When used strategically, they can have a positive impact on your rank.
Check h2 Tags
These are not as big of an indicator as title tags, but having keywords or relevant terms in h2 tags can be very helpful. We even have a few posts that rank for words within our h2's, as well as the terms in the title itself. It's really important that if you have sub headers, you're marking them as h2s and h3s because they are a much powerful SEO indicator than simply larger or bolded text. It gives you an opportunity to rank for more of those longer tail keywords that are relevant to your topic, while giving your primary keyword a little boost. On the other hand, these should certainly not be keyword-stuffed, or presented in a way that would be frustrating for users to read through. Google recognizes these things, and frankly, it just doesn't look good. Find a good balance, but definitely take advantage of these tags when you can.
You want to give people the ability to share blog posts quickly and conveniently across many different platforms. For us, that means Google Plus, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Having social sharing signals for each can show how many individuals have already shared the post, giving other readers an indication of how authoritative the piece of content may be. Not only is the page ranking, but people are taking the time to share it as well. From a content standpoint, I don't think there is any better trust indicator than social shares, so it is very important to make that opportunity available to your audience.
A lot of people overlook the small details, such as the pre-generated tweet that comes up when people choose to share a post. We have seen a boost in our social shares after we made the change to predefine our tweets with better copy than just a direct variation of our title tag. This may take a little extra work, but it gives you much more control and customization over what other people will share. The investment certainly pays off with the links back to your content through increased visibility from these social platforms.
Unique Images (When Possible)
This can be difficult for smaller businesses as you may not have a design team dedicated to creating original images for your website. However, if you have the means, it is something to think about quite seriously. Having a unique image on each post is a phenomenal advantage. Not only does it allow you to gain traffic through Google image search, but it also gives you the opportunity to have something that is sharable.
The greatest potential for this comes from infographics. Make sure that if you create one for a post that you give the option for the reader to share or download it. Not only do unique images serve as a good branding tool, but people tend to share content more often when there is an image that goes along with it. Also, when other people use images in their content, it provides the opportunity to get a link back to the original page that the image was published on. You want to encourage those who share the image to always link back to the source from which they found it, as this can be an incredible opportunity when your image is being found on authoritative sites. Like a domino effect, your images will lead to more links, and more links will lead to a better ranking.
When it comes to a blog, site speed can often be forgotten. Usually it's the home page and landing pages that are the main focus for optimizing this feature because of their importance. However, if the same concern is used when creating a blog, it can have a tremendous impact on your rank. Little things like optimizing the file sizes of your images and videos can make a huge difference to the speed with which your page loads, and the overall user experience for your visitor.
When it comes to ranking first or second on Google's front page, such a seemingly small change can sometimes be the determining factor. If it takes a short time for your page to load, it is more likely that people will stick around and check out more content - and as a result your bounce rate will decrease. It is good for your blog, and great for your brand.
There has been a lot of talk about how meta descriptions are not a direct factor when it comes to ranking. While that is true, they shouldn't be overlooked or ignored. Meta descriptions play a large role in click through rate, and this is one of the indicators used by Google when determining where you should rank. A call to action and any keywords that you are trying to target should be included, as they will be bolded when they match the keyword searched.
You want to create meta descriptions that are engaging and will cause people to want to learn more. The copy needs to be 160 characters or less, which may not seem like much, but at least this give you more freedom for creativity than the title tag limit of 60 characters. Meta descriptions present an opportunity to elaborate on the title of the page itself, and give the reader a better indication of what they will find on your page. If you do not define a meta description yourself, Google will do it for you - which is not always ideal.
You have a lot of great content and that's awesome, but if you do not link it to appropriate pages that are deeper in your site, you run the risk of those other pages not ranking well, as well as lowered conversions for your business because the potential customers were not led through your site's conversion funnel properly. When possible, it is important to link to other relevant blog posts or pages. It will help funnel whatever link equity you may have for the page that is linking out, and will keep the audience reading relevant content throughout your site. You're also able to define your own anchor text when doing internal linking, which is a great opportunity to take advantage of when looking for places to include keywords. Just make sure any words you decide to use as anchor text don't disrupt a user's reading experience and that they are relevant and fit in with the natural flow of your post.
Rewriting Old Content
A lot of general business websites that may have a blog don't take advantage of their old content. It is important to rewrite
your old work once in a while in order to update content that may still be bringing in traffic, but happens to be a little dated. This "evergreen" content is made of pages that may have been written 5 years ago, but still have useful and relevant information to someone who might be reading it today. "How To" guides, and annual lists are great contenders to be rewritten, while things like breaking news pieces are not. In order for this strategy to be effective you need to hit a threshold of 250-300 new characters for Google to consider your page rewritten - so keep that in mind. Also, make use of Google Webmaster Tools to re-index the page whenever it is updated. If you have a post that has done well, make sure you are adding technical SEO elements like header tags or image alt text when appropriate, but don't get too carried away with it as you do not want to risk damaging the quality of the content for a better rank.
If you take the time to apply all of these things to your blog, you will most likely see an increase in rank, but certainly an increase in traffic. As always, it is important to think about the user first, but make sure that your page is structured in a way that makes sense for your overall SEO.