Insight | Marketing

Top 6 SEO rules for writing your blog content

You’ve spent hours cultivating the perfect blog post, which is so exemplary that you’re certain that you’re going to see an astronomical spike in people coming to your site. After leaving it a few days, you prepare to behold the enormous peak in sessions when you log in to Analytics. Your heart sinks when you instantly realise that any increase in traffic is imperceptible. Where did you go wrong?

Here are our top 6 SEO tips to get your blogs ranking for the right keywords so your content can bring in the traffic it deserves.

1. Long-tail keyword research

You have a far better chance of ranking well in search engine results pages (SERPs) in a less competitive space. Find a topic that your website visitors care about and that you dream customers are looking for in search engines, and optimise your blog post for a long-tail version of this keyword. Think around the 3-4+ word mark, instead of shorter queries. Getting the information on what your users care about is done in many ways, whether that’s putting surveys on your site or some other form of market research to discover what your current site visitors are looking for.

Keyword research is imperative to find out what people are searching for and their intent, as well as search trend data. Some of the best tools for this information are Google AdWords Keyword PlannerAnswer the PublicUberSuggest and Google Trends . Another great first step is analysing the internal search terms on your site as this will show you what your current users are looking for.

Also conduct some competitor research – who has already covered similar topics? Did they cover them well? Is their content out of date? It may also be worth talking with your customer service or sales teams to find any common issues that customers have and then writing something that answers this query. This will not only be extremely useful to your existing users but may also help potential customers over-the-line. 

2. Headline and metadata

This is where your long-tail keywords will be the stars of the show. Ensure that these keywords and related phrases appear throughout your content – especially in titles and sub-headings - to indicate to search engine bots that your article addresses the topic. One of the key things to optimise on the page is the meta title/title tag, which is the title that appears in SERPs. The standard format for this is Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Brand Name for most pages; however, for your most important landing pages, it's worth getting creative and speaking to your user using emotive storytelling language. One excellent example of this is the current Seer Interactive home page meta title, which reads: 

"Welcome to Seer Interactive: where data meets desire." 

When changing meta titles, it's worth measuring the impact on where your page ranks to make sure there is no negative impact from removing the keywords.

Similarly, meta descriptions are the descriptive snippets that appear in SERPs. Meta titles and descriptions should be around 55 characters and 155 characters respectively – any longer and they will be cut off in SERPs. Importantly though, you must ensure that your metadata reflects the content and message of your blog post, conveying clear value to the user.

There are some other things to experiment with for your blog post title/meta title which might improve the percentage of people that click on your article when it appears in SERPs or shared on social media. Some of these are including brackets and numbers in your page title. Larry Kim devised the below formula for high click-through rates (CTRs):

You can find the full infographic here.

3. Engaging content

Try and start your post with a short and snappy introduction and make sure it's interesting. This is arguably the most important part of your content, as it's where readers will decide if they want to continue reading. Thanks to smartphones, the average human's attention span has shortened to 8 seconds, so it's essential to captivate them quickly.

Everyone loves a story, so include personal anecdotes or make use of literary techniques to keep your content engaging. Capture their imagination! Making use of emotional persuasion can also prove extremely effective. In this study by Buzzsumo, they found that creating a link to the content and an emotional response through headlines was an incredible way to increase engagement. There has been much research on how to appeal to people's emotions in marketing, this article entitled'Drive your sales with 7 powerful emotional triggers' from Smart Insights details some excellent ways to increase engagement.

In terms of word count, longer content seems to rank better, however this does not mean that content should be long for the sake of it. If your content is informative and useful to your reader, something cannot be condensed and it’s truly informative, then sticking to longer-form content can work well, but that’s not to say everything should be 1000 words or more. Experimenting with different lengths of content is a good way to see what works for your readers, however we would advise that every page on a website has at least 300 words for SEO reasons.

4. Media

There are few pieces of content that aren't improved by adding in visuals. If it’s relevant, then it makes content far more engaging for the reader and also indicates to search engine crawlers that your content is rich and varied. As an example, research from Buzzsumo demonstrates that users are around three times as likely to share your content on Facebook if it includes a thumbnail. 

With the above in mind, don't include stock imagery of smiley suited people just to have an image in your blog. Such a turn-off. Make sure you use imagery that demonstrates the point you're trying to make and increases that emotional engagement mentioned above. 

To follow accessibility regulations, it's important to have ALT text on your images. These will allow users with screen-readers to be able to access your content. In addition to this, it gives search engines more of an indication of what's on that page. If relevant, it can be another place to slot in those ever-valuable long-tail keywords.

5. Schema mark-up

Structuring your data online gives search engines more information about what's on that page. Schema mark-up is a semantic vocabulary, which communicates meaning to search engine bots. This allows them to display data more accurately. Words within your article that were once arbitrary to bots now have context. For instance, it's possible to tell crawlers that specific words on a page are the name of the author of that text.

One of the best things about schema mark-up is that it allows search engine crawlers to display information intelligently. This improves the way that content appears in SERPs – take this example from HubSpot:

Using schema can mean that your pages are far more eye-catching in SERPs, subsequently improving your click-through rate. This will increase the amount of traffic to your site, thus improving ranking as well. Voila!

6. Consistency

Publishing articles regularly shows that you’re engaged with your industry, to both website visitors and search engine bots. It also indicates that your site is up-to-date, so drawing up a content calendar is a great place to start. Depending on the type of blog post, it can be a good idea to update old articles with accurate content if it’s relevant to that particular topic. It's important to state this within the body of the text that the article is updated; this ensures that users can be aware of how recent the article is as this may affect how they interpret the information. For instance, I’d be far more likely to follow the advice in an article relating to SEO techniques in 2017, than a similar post dating from 2012. This is because SEO is a fast moving industry so that article from 2012, will undoubtedly contain outdated content.

Whilst this is not the be all and end all for getting your blog posts to rank highly, sticking to these principles will lead to favourable treatment from search engines. Ensure that you track and test the changes that you’re making, so that you can attribute any spikes in ranking to a particular SEO implementation to prioritise for next time.

And all of the SEOs and content creators lived happily ever after.