Search engine optimization is incredibly important for marketers. When you optimize your web pages – including your blog posts – you’re making your website more visible to people who are entering keywords associated with your product or service via search engines like Google.
But Google’s copious algorithm updates make this tricky. And today’s SEO best practices are all about relevancy and intent. Keep reading – I’ll explain.
How do you know what matters and what doesn’t? What are today’s blog ranking tactics, and what’s considered “old-school”? How on Earth can you keep it all straight?
- Focus on 1–2 long-tail keywords that match the intent of your ideal reader. Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Nowadays, this actually hurts your SEO because search engines consider this keyword stuffing (i.e., including keywords as much as possible with the sole purpose of ranking highly in organic search).
It also doesn’t make for a good reader experience – a ranking factor that search engines now prioritize to ensure you’re answering the intent of your visitors. Therefore, you should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.
A good rule of thumb is to focus on one or two long-tail keywords per blog post. While you can use more than one keyword in a single post, keep the focus of the post narrow enough to allow you to spend time actually optimizing for just one or two keywords.
Why long-tail keywords? These longer, often question-based keywords keep your post focused on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you. In other words, you’ll generate right type of traffic: visitors who convert.
- Include these 1–2 keywords in specific parts of your post. Now that you’ve got your one or two keywords, it’s time to incorporate them into your blog post. Where are the best parts of your posts to include these terms so you rank high in search results?
There are four essential places where you should try to include your keywords: title tag, headers & body, URL, and meta description.
Title Tag The title (i.e., headline) of your blog post will be a search engine’s and reader’s first step in determining the relevancy of your content, so including a keyword here is vital. Google calls this the “title tag” in a search result.
Be sure to include your keyword within the first 60 characters of your title, which is just about where Google cuts titles off on search engine results pages (SERPs). Technically, Google measures by pixel width, not character count, and it recently increasedthe pixel width for organic search results from approximately 500 pixels to 600 pixels, which translates to around 60 characters.
Long title tag? When you have a lengthy headline, it’s a good idea to get your keyword in the beginning since it might get cut off in SERPs toward the end, which can take a toll on your post’s perceived relevancy. In the example below, we had a long title that went over 65 characters, so we front-loaded it with the keyword for which we were trying to rank: “on-page SEO.”
Headers & Body Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers. That means including your keywords in your copy, but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don’t go overboard at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing. Before you start writing a new blog post, you’ll probably think about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s a smart idea, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, nor even your primary focus.
Whenever you create content, your primary focus should be on what matters to your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword or keyword phrase in that content. Focus on being helpful and answering whatever question your customer might’ve asked to arrive on your post. Do that, and you’ll usually find you naturally optimize for important keywords, anyway.
URL Search engines also look to your URL to figure out what your post is about, and it’s one of the first things it’ll crawl on a page. You have a huge opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every post lives on its own unique URL – so make sure you include your one to two keywords in it.
In the example below, we created the URL using the long-tail keyword for which we were trying to rank: “email marketing examples.”
Later in this post, we’ll dive into meta descriptions a bit more. Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post’s content – so be certain to use your long-tail term so Google and your audience are clear on your post’s content.
At the same time, keep in mind the copy matters a great deal for click-through rates because it satisfies certain readers’ intent. The more engaging, the better.