We've all heard the phrase "content is king". And content is obviously the primary component of a great blog. But with so much content being added to the web every day, you need to put in a little extra effort to get your post seen by your audience.
This is where technical best practices play a pivotal role in helping you promote your blog. Yes, technical SEO might seem a bit daunting, but it can easily be broken down into a checklist that you can run through each time you create a post.
Here's a simple, 10-step checklist for improving the effectiveness of your blog in search:
1. Blog Title & Title Tags
Always think first about the context of the title. Does it accurately describe the content? Would users be able to quickly determine if the post is valuable to them?
In most cases, the article title becomes the title tag of that page by default. So you should always aim to title your blog post within 60 characters so that it resonates in search engines. While you can always manually overwrite title tags, this can quickly become cumbersome for frequent posters and it's better to get in the swing of this best practice as a universal, efficient approach.
2. Internal Linking
Having links in your blog that point to other pages on your website can help to support your site's overall content, improve site crawlability by search engines, and help send visitors to explore other areas of your website. Here are a few things to keep in mind when implementing links within your blog post:
- Be sure your anchor text is relevant and topical to the destination link
- Avoid the spammy-sounding "Click Here" and similar types of anchor text
- Avoid single words that don't define where the user is clicking
And lastly, this needs to be said - definitely do not have more links than text!
3. Meta Description
While there may be some debate on the value (or lack thereof) of the meta description as a ranking factor in SEO, one aspect of its value is crystal clear. Your meta description is your chance to help the user understand what to expect for this article, should they choose to click-through. You want your meta descriptions to entice that click-through.
Typically, in blogs, the first 145 characters of the post become the meta description by default. Keep this in mind when crafting that first sentence of your post as it is the prime real estate for user click-through from search. And while there is never a 100% guarantee that search engines will choose your custom meta description to use in the search engine results pages (SERPs), you can put your best foot forward by adopting best practices and avoiding truncation where possible.
Archives are a good way of displaying your site's authority through longevity. There's value in having articles archived by month and year, and being able to view them in chronological order. Visitors can access old articles on topics that may interest them, or at least skim posts while browsing and engaging on your site.
From a technical standpoint, archives are a proven additional way for search bots and crawlers to navigate through your whole site. It never hurts to provide additional avenues that can help with indexing.
Every organized blog includes a range of categories to sort all of the content. What is often overlooked from a user experience standpoint is that one of the best ways to establish these categories are to define them up front.
You know your business. You generally know the types of things you intend to post about. With a little bit of planning and strategy you can define post categories at the outset and then spend time writing quality articles that fit these categories. Writing posts on whatever comes to mind and then creating new categories to support your posts will lead to a messy user experience and a disconnected blog.
Unlike categories, tags are meant to be created as you go. When completing each new post you should create tags (keywords) that explain the context of your post, as they will aid with internal searches and filters as users look to explore content on your site.
It's advisable to "noindex" tag pages to avoid creating multiple, even hundreds, of pages that aren't beneficial to user experience or SEO.
7. Canonicalization & Pagination
Articles should generally contain self-referencing canonical tags. Think of this as a self-pat on the back for each article, with the article telling search engines that it wants to take the credit in search for all of their content within.
If you think you may have duplicate content - or even very similar versions of content - you should choose one primary page as the "canonical" version and have all other similar content pages point to that primary page with canonical tags. Here you are telling search engines to only credit the page that you designate with that canonical tag, even though this content is referenced across a series of pages.
When it comes to very long or multi-page articles, it may be best to incorporate pagination. Both paginated and unpaginated articles are considered best practice and whichever you use can be determined as you prefer.
8. Subdomains vs. Subfolders
Ideally, blogs should live off of the top-level domain (TLD) (i.e. www.website.com/blog). A blog sitting on a subdomain (i.e. blog.website.com) can be looked on as a separate website by search engines. That means that if other sites link to your blog, your main website may not get as much benefit from the link. This is why it is recommended to use subfolders on a TLD instead.
Rand Fishkin from Moz
explained that their website as a whole has seen increased ranking benefits when moving content from a subdomain back to the TLD. Although technically it might be easier for small businesses and startups to host their blog on a subdomain (especially if the blog is still being tested as a proof of concept), using subfolders on your TLD will likely maximize SEO potential by recognizing your blog and website as a single website.
9. Page URL
Every page's URL should be concise and descriptive. Your blog post page URL should be the title of your blog article, minus any prepositions and spacer words. Also, only use hyphens in between words (no underscores!) when creating a page URL for your post.
Additionally, your blog URL should include the levels of navigation (the subfolders) on your domain. By displaying the subfolders in the URL itself, you can help users understand where they are located on your site. Just like title tags, a URL with descriptive words is a factor in determining keyword relevancy and search rankings.
10. Effective Content
Last but not least, we should close by talking a little bit more about the content itself. If done right, blogs are an extremely valuable tool for taking top funnel content and bringing users to your site, driving them inward and ultimately leading them to a conversion point.
This will happen over time and with some nurturing. Not every blog post you create is meant to have "Buy Now" (or insert your bottom-funnel CTA here) as its primary call-to-action. This will likely cause disconnect with your audience.
Many of today's blogs are vanilla because business owners are cautious, and rightfully so. That said, your blog shouldn't suffer by lacking personality. The stronger the voice your blog has, the better it will stand out from all the other content on the web. But the trick is, everyone needs to agree on that voice and figuring it out starts up front, at the beginning of the process, with the strategy. Getting everyone on the same page early on will help to eliminate paranoia, and the worry of going too far "off brand" with subsequent posts.
Blog Best Practices
In the end, it's important that your blog checks these boxes, while continuing to strike a healthy balance between bringing in new traffic from search and nurturing the audience that you already have. Ensuring that you are providing value, engaging your audience, and being as technically efficient as possible - all at the same time - is the sweet spot of blogging.