Optimising a blog post for SEO

Mar 27, 2014 by
Optimising a blog post for SEO

Running a successful blog has numerous benefits, including increased brand awareness, positioning yourself as a source of valuable information for your industry and increasing rapport with your customers and potential clients. And with recent updates to Google’s search engine algorithms, generating high value, in-depth content via your company’s blog is more important than ever.

From a creative writing perspective, there are numerous ways you can structure a blog post to maximise its impact and ensure that visitors keep coming back for more great articles. However, running a blog is not only about honing your writing skills – there are many ways you can supercharge your WordPress posts from a technical and search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective so that more organic traffic gets driven to your content.

Categories and tags

Categories and tags
Initially, blogs were designed so that you could scroll through posts chronologically. That still applies, but categories and tags are a great tool to help visitors navigate your blog thematically as well. Contrary to popular belief, this information doesn’t send signals to Google directly, but anything that helps make your content more findable and keeps visitors on your site for longer will help.

In Lorelle VanFossen’s excellent article on the subject of categories versus tags, she describes categories as “your site’s table of contents” and tags as “your site’s index words”. Your categories should be the broad topics that help your visitors identify blog posts that will be relevant to them while your tags should be the micro-categorisations that pertain to the key details of your post.

For example, if you run a blog about sport, different categories might include: basketball, football, tennis, boxing, snowboarding and so forth. But let’s say you want to write a post about Wladimir Klitschko’s recent title defence against Alexander Povetkin at Moscow’s Olympic Indoor Arena. Posting under the boxing category, tags might include: unanimous decision, heavyweight, Moscow, Klitschko, Povetkin and so forth.

It’s best not to favour either categorisation or tagging over the other. Both tools should work together synergistically and systematically to improve your visitors’ experience. Remember, categories and tags should be used to help users make sense of your site, not confuse them, so don’t overdo it! As stated by ManageWP

“You must strike a good balance between offering as few options as possible, whilst giving the reader a choice that they will be satisfied with.”

It’s also worth noting that WordPress’ default “Uncategorised” category is of no value for site navigation or anything else; either delete it or don’t use it.

Permalink optimisation

The default URL structure on WordPress is much less than ideal for SEO purposes. The URL (or address) of your post should reflect the fact that most people will click on the link based on the name of the post rather than the name of your blog. The URL will appear in social shares as well as in Google’s results. So it’s also important to take your time when crafting a catchy, enticing blog headline.

In WordPress, click on Settings and then Permalinks; you will then be able to change the way your post’s title appears in search engines.

While there are several different options to choose from, best choice is to select Custom Structure and then type in /%postname% – using this code will create a URL slug using the name of the post, separated by dashes. In addition to the /%postname% tag, there are numerous other tags, such as %author% (which includes a sanitised version of the author’s name) and %category% which can be used. Different combinations can be strung together to create your own unique URL slug, as described in further detail in this article.

However, even with these settings, the URL slugs that WordPress creates automatically (based on the post title) are not perfect for SEO. Commonly they are simply too long, or they simply don’t “translate” well in the context. In these cases it is best to rewrite the slug manually to make them more SEO friendly: not too long and including keyword search phrases relevant to the blog post and the business if possible. Remember that although a post title should normally make sense in English (or any language, as appropriate), URLs don’t have to. Constructing great URLs for SEO social sharing is a topic in its own right, but a common trick is often just to remove prepositions and similar parts of speech.

Meta description optimisation

The meta description is the piece of text that shows up immediately below the blog post’s URL on search engine result pages (SERPs). The title, URL and description shown are together known as the snippet, and it’s all important for attracting people to your site. Generating a unique meta description for each post is highly recommended for SEO purposes; unfortunately, WordPress does not have this functionality built-in. In order to post your own meta descriptions you will need to download WordPress SEO plugin such as Yoast, which can be downloaded free of charge and has many other SEO-boosting features.

Google result
When typing in a meta description, you only have around 160 characters to lure potential visitors to your post – so make sure you write something compelling! I know it’s tempting to just copy and paste a relevant sentence from the introduction of your article, but please resist. Unfortunately there is no shortcut to excellence; take your time to write a meta description that provides a powerful call to action or compelling summary of the content within so that visitors won’t hesitate to click.

Remember, any search terms used will be highlighted in bold in the search results so make sure your main keywords are included in the text. However, the meta description does not actually affect the ranking of a post, just the likelihood of someone clicking on it when they do see it in the results – so focus on high quality copy here, not on stuffing it with keywords.

SEO details
While you’re at it, you may be tempted to put something in the meta keywords tag. However, the best thing to put in here is absolutely nothing! It’s been ignored by search engines for years.

Internal and external links

The successful integration of internal links (hyperlinks that direct the user to other areas or pages within your own site) and external links (hyperlinks that direct the user to a different site) into your content is acrucial factor in making sure your site ranks well with Google. Intelligent usage of external links can often bring you backlinks, and if the backlinks are from sites which Google deem to be of quality, this will also boost your SEO potential.

In the same vein, internal linking will not only help users to navigate your site more easily, but they will also lead to increased page views and better indexing. When using external links, use your own discretion whether to select the ‘open link in a new window’ option – often it can be useful for navigation purposes, but if there are too many windows that need to be opened, people can find it irritating.

Insert link

Integrate Twitter and other social media platforms

There’s no better way to widen the reach of your blog than by implementing social media buttons into your WordPress page: the options available to you include Like via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest. StumbleUpon, Tumblr, LinkedIn and many more. If somebody likes your post, make it easy for them to share it with their friends with a simple Tweet button. If the post goes viral, even to a limited extent, you have the opportunity to answer questions and engage in discussions from your own Twitter account, increasing your online credibility and respect. There are some great ways to incorporate Twitter into your WordPress layout.

So, if you liked this article, don’t hesitate to hit the Tweet button below!

Not using WordPress?

All this is all very well, but what if you are not using WordPress for your blog or site? Fear not – although I have used WordPress as a specific example here, the same guidelines apply and can be implemented in almost any decent blogging platform or content management system (CMS).