When we’re talking to business owners and agencies about what we do at BlogMutt, a couple of questions that come up again and again are, “What is blogging SEO?” and “Does blogging help my SEO?”
If we were to give a one word answer like, “Yes!” the invariable follow-up question goes something like, “OK, but how? I’ve heard I should be blogging for SEO but how does blogging actually help my search engine rankings?”
That’s a solid question. This post will dive into the mechanics of how blogging can help your website rank on Google and other search engines, answer some frequently asked questions, and showcase some actionable SEO tactics and strategy for blogging.
Before we talk about how, let’s set some table stakes:
1. As we tell all of our clients, when blogging to improve your SEO, you get out what you put into it. Forcing your summer intern to put words on the screen or buying a bunch of blog posts from Fiverr ain’t gonna cut it.
2. You need a plan. Blogging can make an impact on your SEO only when it creates content useful to your prospects, customers, and search engines insomuch as it tells them what your website is all about. Before you start cranking out blog posts, do the research to figure out what to write about, and how the people you care about reaching talk about what you do.
3. Optimize and promote. The words that make up a blog post are only part of the battle when it comes to SEO (though for many folks, they’re the hardest part!) After you’ve written and edited your blog post, two more steps will help you get the most bang for your buck: 1) optimize your post using SEO best practices – good keyword and related term use, a strong page title, meta description, and image alt tags and 2) promote your post! Post about it on your social media. Reach out to influencers and journalists who cover your niche or geographical area. Blogging without SEO is kind of like that old saying about the tree falling in the forest.*
(*There are some big, important exceptions here – the long tail, hyper-niche, and local topics. Definitely check out that section below.)
4. Realize Google is much smarter than it was 10, five, or even three years ago. Ways you might have heard about to “trick”, “beat”, or “hack” Google or shortcut your way to the top of Google no longer work (best case scenario) or, worst case, can get your site removed from search results entirely. Even if you’re not trying to be sneaky, doing things that used to be necessary (i.e. using an exact-match keyword once in your title, three times in your body text, and at least once in an image alt tag) are no longer best practices or appropriate.
OK, you’ve got your chips on the table. Let’s talk blogging and SEO.
The mechanisms that drive blogging’s impact on your SEO
The process of getting your website to show up in one of those coveted spots near the top of Google’s organic search rankings might seem pretty mystical, but thanks to the work of an amazingly transparent SEO industry, we actually know a good deal about how this works.
For blogging to impact SEO, your blog posts need to drive human action, which, in turn, influences search engine algorithms, or they need to directly influence search engine algorithms. That might sound fancier than it is.
Let’s break this down into some concrete examples:
Mechanism 1: Blog posts that get you links.
Looking at surveys of SEO experts and experiments done by the SEO community, it’s clear that links to your website matter, a lot. (To be clear, by “link” I mean a hyperlink from another website to your own. Also note that links from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter don’t really seem to count much for SEO.)
When a blog post you write earns a link, this is powerful for your website’s SEO. In action, this mechanism might look something like this: you run a tire store in Denver and write a blog post about the 5 different tire options available to drivers in the Colorado winter – how expensive each is, what’s the best option for getting you safely up to the mountains for some skiing, etc.
(via ‘Why Freelancers Should RUN From Upwork – And Where You Should Go!’ by Bjarne Viken)
After publishing the post, you reach out to journalists and local newspapers, send them the post, and offer to do a quick interview as a winter tire expert. A reporter from the Denver Post writes an article on the Post‘s website and links to your blog post as the source. You’ve just successfully created a link.
Mechanism 2: Blog posts that reinforce topical authority.
The concept of a website’s “topical authority” is a relatively recent advancement in Google’s algorithm. The idea is that Google has developed the concept of a “topic” within the information it uses to determine organic search rankings – i.e. fly fishing, home cookware, etc. If Google’s algorithm determines a given website is authoritative for a given topic, it will be easier for that website to rank for terms related to that topic.
Like everything in Google’s algorithm, we don’t know exactly what goes into this concept, but what most SEO whizzes believe is that topical authority is heavily influenced by the amount of content related to the topic on a given site, the percent of a website’s content related to the topic, use of a variety of keywords that relate to a given topic, and the relevance of inbound links from other websites to a given topic.
So, blogging about a variety of subjects around the topic you’re looking to rank for should increase your site’s topical authority.
Mechanism 3: Blog posts that create engagement.
Another recent addition to Google’s algorithm is engagement – how users of your website interact with your content – how long do they stay on a page? After landing on your website do they click around to other pages of your site, or do they immediately hit the back button and keep looking for other websites within Google’s search results?
With the proliferation of Android devices and the popularity of Google’s Chrome browser, Google now has access to more engagement data than ever before. Remember it is in Google’s best interest to deliver the best results possible to searchers, and engagement data is a great proxy for how “good” a given search result is.
What this means to you is that creating high-quality blog content that users engage with signals to Google that your site is an excellent source of information and should be shown to users in organic search results more often.
Mechanism 4: Blog posts that precisely serve niche and local searches.
For an extremely competitive search query – i.e. “best mobile phones 2017” or “best hotels in Manhattan”, your website won’t have any chance of ranking well without amazing content that earns a good number of inbound links and a strong domain authority.
While this may seem disheartening for a small business owner, consider the concepts of “niche” and “local”.
Niche or “long tail” meaning that a search term is used less frequently – a search for “float tanks” is going to occur much less frequently than one for “massages”, a search for “home brewing tips for high-altitude brewing” much less frequently than “home brewing tips”.
Local meaning that the searcher attaches a local modifier to their search – “home brewing Silverthorne Colorado” vs just “home brewing”.
For search terms that are either very niche, very local, or niche and local, there simply isn’t all that much content on the web that serves a searcher’s exact intent. As a result, just having a good blog post on a long-tail local term may be enough to allow your website to rank for that term, even if you don’t earn any links for that piece of content at all, and even if you don’t have a strong domain authority.
Translating these mechanisms into success – dos & don’ts, questions & answers
- Ensure the majority of your blog posts are on topics relating directly or indirectly to your core business
- Blog regularly to build the amount of content on your site about your topic
- Focus on quality
- Find long-tail, niche, and local keyword opportunities for your business
- Bother to write or buy low-quality content for the sake of having it
- Start off by targeting hyper-competitive keywords
Q: How long does a blog post need to be?
A: Worry about how long the post needs to be to achieve the goal it has for human users. Don’t worry about length with respect to search engines. (This wasn’t necessarily true 5 or 10 years ago.) This isn’t to say that a longer, more comprehensive blog post can’t benefit your SEO – when the topic warrants going deep, go deep!
Q: What is a SEO article?
A: An SEO article is an outdated term for a blog post written specifically to help a website rank for a specific keyword. Again, since Google has gotten smarter about the topics a website is about, creating one blog post for one keyword and another for a closely related variation is no longer necessary.
Q: How can I write SEO friendly blog posts? How do I optimize a blog post for SEO?
A: Do keyword research to understand how searchers talk about what you’re writing about. Employ basic on-page optimization techniques. Promote your blog posts on social and reach out to journalists when appropriate.
Well, I think that does it for tonight! Make sure you understand table stakes, consciously go after one or more mechanisms for blogging SEO with your blog posts, follow the best practices outlined above, and keep at it and you’ll be well on your way to driving meaningful SEO results from your blog.
Related questions? Shoot me a note – paul [at] blogmutt.com. I’d love to hear from you.