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As a professional in the digital age, you’ve probably already heard plenty of people talk about search engine optimization (SEO) by now. But just how important is SEO, and if you’re already posting engaging content on your organization’s blog, do you really need to worry about it?
Well, according to a study conducted by online ad network Chitika, the top listing on any given Google search results page (SERP) receives roughly 33% of organic traffic, compared to about 18% and 11% for the second and third listings, respectively. Add up those numbers and you’ll see the top three organic listings alone on any given SERP generally receive over 60% of organic traffic from Google — pretty eye-opening, right?
Whether you’re a seasoned expert or brand new to the world of SEO, the following is a simplified checklist that covers the must-haves when it comes to creating blog posts with SEO in mind. Use this resource either while writing blog posts and planning future content, or even while auditing and improving on the content you already have.
- Conduct keyword research
Once you’ve got a topic to focus on, select a few keywords to incorporate organically into the blog post copy. Start by brainstorming relevant keywords and plugging them into a keyword research tool like Google Trends to see if they have a decent amount of search volume.
Try to focus on one or two long-tail keywords, which are longer and often rooted in a specific question. For example, “how to write an SEO-friendly blog post” will likely perform much better than “blog post.”
Be careful not to overdo it on keywords, though. If Google suspects you’re keyword stuffing, or incorporating as many keywords as possible within your content to try to rank, it may penalize you or lower your overall ranking.
- Optimize your title tag
A meta title, or title tag, is one of the major ranking factors Google takes into consideration when trying to understand what a web page is about. On the SERPs, title tags appear as clickable blue links that direct users to a page. They’re generally only 50-60 characters long, so you’ll want to be sure to maximize that space as much as possible.
A good rule of thumb for writing title tags is placing your most important keyword at the beginning, followed by your website’s name afterwards. For example:
- Write a brief meta description
Once you’ve set up your blog post’s title tag, the meta description is next. This is the text displayed beneath the title tag, which gives a quick preview to what the post will be about. Incorporate some keywords and a call to action in your meta description— just be sure to keep them short and simple, because Google generally only displays about 150-160 characters.
Here’s an example of a solid meta description:
- Utilize heading tags
The importance of heading tags within blog posts is doubly important, because they’re helpful for your readers and search engines.
Incorporating target keywords in your heading tags helps Google understand the key takeaways of your article and could help your content rank for highly valuable featured snippets on search results pages.
Take this blog post, for example. We’ve broken down each of our talking points into smaller sections, each with their own dedicated heading tag. While there’s certainly a time and place for essay-style blog posts, in general, these heading tags make the content much easier to read and follow than one long, continuous block of text.
- Incorporate internal & external links
In the beginning of this post, we summarized the main takeaway of a study on organic traffic and linked back to that study. This is an example of an external link, or a link that takes a user to another website or resource. When used in the context of blog posts, external links boost credibility by proving you’re not fabricating facts and statistics, and also help direct your audience to third-party resources, should they be interested in learning more about a certain topic on their own time.
In contrast, internal links direct users to other pages on your website. By incorporating them within blog posts, internal links help Google understand how your post is related to the rest of the content on your site, and decrease your website’s bounce rate by keeping users on your website for longer periods of time.
- End with a clear call to action
Finally, you’ll want to close your blog post with a relevant call to action. This ties in with the idea of internal and external linking in that, ideally, you don’t want your audience to land on your website, read one blog post, and leave.
Think about it this way: what action do you want your audience to take once they finish reading your post? Do you want them to check out other blog posts you’ve written on a similar topic? Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter?
It doesn’t have to be directly in the text, and it might look different for every post, but calls to action are key to managing user-flow throughout your site and keeping your audience as engaged as possible for longer periods of time.