Search engine optimization is the best way to steadily grow your website’s traffic over time, but it isn’t easy. There are no silver bullets and no real quick wins.
In this blogging SEO guide, Bhanu Ahluwalia, Founder & CEO of Rank Math, will not only take a look at how you can optimize your website and content for search but also show you how you can find relevant content ideas based around keywords that make sense for your business.
1. Proper Keyword Research
Keyword research is the process of identifying popular words, phrases and search terms that potential website visitors might enter so that you can then later determine whether or not it is worth producing a piece of content to satisfy the searcher intent for that specific keyword in an effort to rank in search. Proper keyword research is extremely important and it can help save you from hours or hundreds if not thousands of dollars wasted on producing content that isn’t relevant or useful to you and your business in any way.
Keyword research is at the heart of any successful website and blog, and the failure to do this correctly is also the main reason that most blogs fail.
We recommend using tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush for keyword research. However, it goes without saying that these tools are quite expensive and if you’re early on in your blogging journey, they might even be too much to invest in at this time. The great news is that there are still tons of keyword research tools that you can use.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be using Ahrefs. (as pictured above)
The most important part of keyword research is the ability to evaluate whether a keyword is worth targeting (i.e. worth creating a piece of content for).
Finding a bunch of keywords in your niche that have a high search volume isn’t that complicated — but this is still something that we’ll get to later in this post.
There are three things to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue creating a piece of content to rank for a specific keyword:
- The Commercial Intent
- The Search Volume
- The Competition
Commercial intent can be broken down into something called “business value”. The keywords you target don’t all necessarily need to specifically surround the types of searches that buyers would be making but there should always be some scope to feature (or at least mention) the product or service that you are trying to promote.
If you’re able to create a post that showcases your product or service as the best solution to a specific problem that people searching for the keyword in question are likely to have, then the keyword is suitable. SEO audit can be done manually, but Rank Math WordPress SEO plugin makes it possible to do this automatically.
And as long as the search volume is high enough to drive traffic to your site, and the competition is relatively manageable then the keyword is worth pursuing because there is a chance that you are able to outperform and outrank competing websites.
2. Meta Titles & Descriptions and Why They Matter
The headline of your blog post is the most important factor in evaluating the relevancy of your content, so including a keyword here naturally is vital. Google often refers to this as the “title tag” in search results.
To make your life easier, the Rank Math plugin automatically makes a number of important recommendations to help you improve and optimize your posts. We advise people not to make scoring 100/100 a target, you don’t have to follow every single piece of advice and swear by it, they are just suggestions based on data and what’s working for other websites. That being said, optimizing titles and ensuring that readers (as well as search engines) are able to identify that they are highly relevant to searchers using specific keywords is important. That’s why we recommend that you do use the focus keyword at some point in the meta title and description as well as early on in the content.
If you have a particularly long title tag, it’s good practice to aim to put your keyword at the beginning since it could get cut off if you place it at the end, especially on mobile devices.
When it comes to title tags and meta descriptions, I wish it were as easy as telling you to add keywords at the beginning but the truth is that it doesn’t stop there. It is complicated and doing it well consistently is an art. One great example we could use is HomeLight — a website that, as you might’ve guessed, creates content about houses and homes.
If you looked at some of the results, you’ll notice that they use questions quite frequently. This is great practice and as a matter of fact, according to Backlinko’s study into CTR statistics, questions have proven to increase clicks, which means it is definitely worth considering implementing them in your blog post headline strategy.
3. Improving Blog Content: Are There Standards & Ideals?
When it comes to the actual blog post content, the truth is that there are no ideals and no standards. It would be wrong to suggest that there is an ideal blog post length because the truth is that there isn’t.
In general, the trend suggests that long-form content does generate more backlinks than short blog posts. Does this mean that you should needlessly write 10,000-word posts?
No, but creating thin content that doesn’t fully cover a concept either isn’t a great strategy. Posts should be as long as the topic being covered requires, something which can often be discovered by glancing at other competing content that is currently ranking for your target keyword. To that end, it is worth noting that Rank Math’s SEO Meta Box has a number of helpful reminders such as, for example, including power words in your title and ensuring that your images have alt tags.
In addition to this, the content analysis also helps you ensure that your content is easy-to-read which is why we recommend using a table of contents plugin as well as displaying your Flesch Readability score, a test which is commonly used to determine the ease at which something can be read.
4. Off-Page SEO: Guest Posting & Building Links
Links to this day remain to be one of (if not the) most important known Google ranking factor. Now that you’ve got your technical SEO sorted, what’s next?
Start building links. No, this doesn’t mean buying links. This means you should start reaching out to people who have linked to your competitor’s content and tell them to check out yours. If they like it more, then suggest they swap out the link for your content and there you have it. How do you find these link prospects?
Easy, use Ahrefs or SEMrush. In Ahrefs, head to the Site Explorer which looks like this:
Make sure to specify the search to the Exact URL, not *.domain/* which would just show you all of the links pointing to any page on a specific website. When set to Exact URL, only links pointing to that specific URL (post, page or piece of content) will be shown.
Then paste in the URL of the blog post you’ve written a competing post for. For example, since we’re using Ahrefs’ software, we might as well use one of the awesome posts as an example. Although it was published fairly recently, the post has already accumulated a number of backlinks.
Click on the number of backlinks to see all of them and then specify specific filters, including the One link per domain filter and the Dofollow filter.
We generally specify the One link per domain filter since a new link from a new referring domain will always have more weight (or so-called link equity) than multiple links from the same domain. Obviously, we also specify the Dofollow filter because building links with the no-follow attribute wouldn’t help a post rank higher in Google.
This narrows down our search quite a bit so now we can export this data, start finding emails for those websites or using their contact forms to share our new post with them and ask if they’d be willing to swap out the link to the older post which isn’t as good as yours for a better post. If your post is genuinely better, the answer will likely be yes, but prepare yourself to be met with a lot of negative responses too.
5. Outranking Your Competition: The 3-Step Strategy
- Find out what’s ranking for your target keyword.
- Create content that outperforms it in every possible way.
- Publish it, promote it and start link building by reaching out to people who linked to your competition’s posts (using the process we described earlier)
Is it easy? No. It’s a long process that takes time, especially for new domains with low authority, but it’s the most organic, white-hat and sustainable way to rank high-quality, evergreen posts at scale.
6. Summary: Blogging SEO – Where to Next?
Now that you’ve got the basics down and have a general idea of how to create a blogging SEO strategy that is suitable for your own blog or business, why wouldn’t you want to put what you know into practice?
You can read as many blog posts, and watch as many YouTube videos you want about SEO and blogging but the only real way to learn is by doing.
Obviously, we also highly recommend staying subscribed to popular SEO blogs, including the following which all have both beginner-friendly as well as content that is suitable for people who are more experienced at SEO:
We may be a bit biased here but we do put a lot of time and effort into the content on our blog and making sure that it is both actionable as well as helpful for people of all skill levels.
We’re heavy users of Ahrefs’ SEO toolset and they’ve obviously managed to use their team’s expertise combined with their own software to continually produce content covering various aspects of SEO – with their website having hit the 250,000 organic traffic mark at the time of writing (as you might’ve guessed, according to the data we have thanks to Ahrefs itself).
The Detailed.com blog is run by Glen Allsopp and is a great place to go if you’re tired of generic and vague articles about SEO that truly help nobody. Together with his other website, Gaps.com, Glen consistently shares posts which he truly pours his heart into putting together, spending hours upon hours actually analyzing data, businesses and what’s working. His content isn’t extremely and unnecessarily frequent, he only shares something which he truly thinks is worth sharing not just mimicking other content that is already out there which we admire.
Nathan Gotch, the founder of Gotch SEO is one of the most prolific people in SEO who is also highly active on YouTube, if you prefer watching videos his channel should definitely be the next one you subscribe to.
Backlinko is one of the most popular SEO blogs, with over 200,000 organic visitors per month, Brian consistently covers topics in an interesting way and shares the methods that he has used to grow his blog to such an incredible level.
So, what’s your plan? Are you going to start a niche or authority site? Or is today the day you’re going to launch the blog on your business website?
Let us know in the comments below — we can’t wait to hear from you!