Search Engine Optimization is a big, beautiful beast, much like my dog Murphy. Just when you think you have it figured out, it surprises you by peeing on the floor. Or, something like that. But, there is a strategy to taming the SEO beast, and by following best practices for blog optimization, you’ll be well on your way to major Google credibility.
What’s your keyword? For blog optimization, that’s the first thing that you’ll need to figure out when you sit down to write. Second, how are you going to integrate that keyword into your blogging for optimal SEO benefits, and, here’s the kicker, how are you going to do that naturally?
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Absolutely terrible, right? (Forgive me, Google!) We’ve all seen it before; you have a long-tailed keyword that you need to integrate into blogging because it’s best practice, but it’s so obvious what you’re doing that it totally ruins the content of your article because all that the reader can focus on is how awkwardly you stuck this long-tailed keyword into the middle of your sentences for no apparent reason, other than to boost your page ranking.
Long gone are the days of bolding keywords and cramming them into your content as much as humanly possible, so that eventually you end up with a 500 word blog post, with 300 of those words being your keyword being repeated over and over like Jack Torrance in "The Shining". All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. Well, all keywords and no content make your blog dull as… you know what.
Your reader isn’t the only one that notices. In fact, Google actually penalizes you for using your keyword too many times within the body of your text.
So, how can you integrate keywords naturally into your blogging so that you’re still optimizing, without detracting from the content? Here are some best practices for optimizing a blog for SEO:
Leave breadcrumbs, not giant loaves of bread. Sprinkle keyword(s) throughout your content in a natural way that makes sense. The long-tailed keywords that you’re using should be relevant to the topic you’re discussing and the point you’re trying to make. If you would never normally structure or include a sentence the way you would if you’re just trying to fit a keyword in, don’t do it! Google is smart. It will pick up on your game and penalize you because it doesn’t see this as helpful or credible content, and it’s not. You need to focus on creating content for your readers, not to trick a robot algorithm. Google will reward you because you are creating relevant, helpful content vs. just keyword stuffing your pages.
Cover all of your bases
There are other ways to boost your keyword rankings through blog optimization than just the body of your text. Have you considered the title of your blog post, the meta description, and image alt-text? These are all things that contribute and items that Google definitely looks at when crawling your pages. Keywords should be included in your blog title, the meta description of your blog (the description of your article that people searching Google will see on the search results page), and the alt-text behind any images you include (this tells Google what the image is about, and subsequently can send people back to your website). Including links to other relevant and helpful content for your reader throughout your article also boosts your optimization.
Don’t be so literal
You should have a keyword strategy in place, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it so literally. Google’s algorithm can figure out what your content is about and what you’re trying to convey, even if it isn’t always in the exact same order. For example, your long-tailed keyword may be “long distance running shoes”, but you don’t always have to say “long distance running shoes” every time you want to use it. You can change up the order, or break it up in a sentence and say, “The proper running shoes are critical when you will be competing for long distances”, for example. Synonyms also work.
Use available tools
There is a lot of information out there about proper optimization, and you should be using these tools and resources to your advantage! For example, if you use HubSpot, there is an "SEO View" that you can utilize when you're drafting a blog article to see what areas need more optimization or if you're doing something that can hurt your ranking. Is your meta description too long? Did you not use a keyword in your title? Did you use your keyword too much? Is your image missing alt-text? The tool will alert you and let you know what you did wrong (or right).
Above all, the more you know, and the more you practice best practices, the better you will become at blog optimization and the better results you’ll see. Blogging and SEO strategies take time to build up, and if you set the proper foundation and don’t make the typical optimization mistakes that can actually penalize you, you will reap the benefits soon enough. See you on page one!
If you’d like to become an expert at search engine optimization and apply best practices to your blogging strategy ASAP, check out our introduction to SEO below.