How to Optimize Blog Posts for SEO

Now that you know the content marketing tips to decide what needs to go into a post, today we’ll discuss how to ensure Google can find that amazing post by optimizing what’s on the page. Basically I’m going to teach you to be the Hardy Boys of SEO, hunting down every opportunity for making your in-body content more SEO-friendly. So here’s how to optimize blog posts for SEO with a simple four-step checklist.

Discover how to optimize blog posts for SEO

1. Use the keyword in all the right places

In the post title

Put the keyword in the post title, at close to the front as possible. And keep the title less than 50 characters in length. Use your brand name at the end “Keyword | Brand Name”.

Don’t forget this is an ad! You need people to want to click on your title. Keep in mind titles that are a question have a 14.1% higher click through rate.

Make it compelling by including a click-worthy term near the front such as: best, essential, surprising, top, modern, trendy, or best-selling. And at the end consider adding another term that makes it more appealing such as definitive, need to know, unbiased, complete, guide.

If your on-page title doesn’t by default match your SEO page title, for example if you’re using Yoast, ensure you use the keyword in the on-page title as well.

In the meta description

Use the keyword as close to the front of the meta description as possible. Keep the meta under 150 characters. Remember the meta is also an ad! Make it short, punchy, and intriguing so readers want to click.

Within the first paragraph

Put the keyword into the first paragraph of the post, as close to the beginning as you can.

As part of the first “chapter” heading

Use it in the first H2 header on the page (this header should introduce what you’re going to talk about), for example: “Explore how to optimize blog posts for SEO.”

In an H3

Use a natural language variation of the keyword in at least one H3, and within the paragraph text somewhere.

In the last H2

Include it in the conclusion H2 header on the page.

In the URL

Use it in the post’s URL, which should be as short as possible – ideally less than 50 characters. And it should make it clear what the post is about.

To describe images

Write it as your image’s file name and within the image alt text. Your alt image text should describe what the image is of, and should naturally include the keyword. (And try to keep the images under 100KB).

Use the keyword within paragraphs

Make sure the keyword density is on-point. An ideal keyword density is around 1-2%, meaning the target keyword appears one to two times per 100 words. 

For calls-to-action

Use the keyword in your calls-to-action because this will increase click through. People came to the page to learn about the thing, and you’ll be tying their interest into your next step this way.

Sprinkle supporting keywords

Include supporting long-tail keywords here and there where they fit in easily. These related keywords can fall into two buckets:

  1. Rephrasings of the same thing: For example if the keyword is “how to seo a blog post”, the supporting keywords could be “write a seo-friendly blog post” or similar)
  2. Related topics that you should cover to be comprehensive about the subject matter you are covering: For the seo blog post example, these keywords might be things like blog post design for seo, blog post load time, etc.

By the way, long-tail keywords (which tend to be descriptive four word phrases) are so key because “60.67% of all “search demand” is generated by only 0.16% of the most popular keywords (with search volumes of 1,001 or more). So the other 39.33% belongs to the 99.84% of queries with one thousand or fewer searches per month—long-tail keywords.”

2. Make the post formatting easy to read to be SEO-friendly

This ends up being a lot of little details, and a bit subjective but the general idea is to observe an F-shape pattern that allows for simple skimming of the content.

Follow the on-page SEO UX design checklist:

  • The on-page title needs to be an H1.
  • Use H2s for the title of every main section of content you’ve identified. Think of your H2s as chapters in a book, and use active verbs to kick them off.
  • Use numbered lists with the main ideas called out as H3s.
  • Create bulleted lists of listable content to make it easier for the reader to digest.
  • Make a table of contents to kick off the post, using jump-links of descriptive words to each section in case someone wants to skip directly there.
  • Prioritize conversion with clear call-to-action image banners placed within the post above the fold and below.

Create scannable chunks of copy

Break up your paragraphs into max about 300 words each. And use simple words. 50% of the US population read below an 8th-grade reading level. Also write in use action-oriented words, rather than passive tense.

To view your post’s readability score in Microsoft Word select File > Options > Proofing, and under “When correcting Spelling and Grammar in Word” check the box for “Show readability statistics.” You could also use an app such as Hemmingway or Grammarly to grade for readability.

Go long!

Make sure it’s in-depth enough! I’d suggest writing as many words as it takes to fully cover a topic, that can mean 1500+ words for more timely posts and 2300+ words for more evergreen content. Don’t forget that the average content length of a Google first page result was already 1,890 words back in 2016.

Use Schema markup to SEO optimize blog posts

Include structured markup where possible to show you’ve included FAQs or How-Tos. You can even include hyperlinks within the FAQ accordion answers. Just use the Yoast plugin or use this free tool that pops out a snippet of code to paste on your page.

However be aware that it can be a double-edged sword as it could decrease clicks through to your site if you give all the answers away up front. I like to use it for taking up more real-estate to build brand awareness and for answering slightly adjacent questions to the main article topic.

3. Maximize your link building

Link internally to 1 page and 2 posts

In the first paragraph link to a very related high-value page on your website to pass along love. Use that page’s keyword as your linked text within the article.

Try to find one other place to link to another piece of content on your site (so you’ll have 3 internal links). Just Google your brand the topic and see what pops up to see your options.

Suggest another related article to read next in the conclusion paragraph. Use that post’s keyword as your linked text within the paragraph.

Link externally to 3 quality sites

Cite anywhere from 1-5 (target of 3) external websites with high domain authority by including a fact or data from them that adds weight to your point.

Keep the reader on-page

Ensure all the external hyperlinks in the article open in a new tab.

4. Get eyeballs on it right away for maximum SEO impact

It’s really important to kickstart Google’s flywheel. Their goal is to show great content, and people viewing content indicates it’s interesting. So getting views to a post as soon as it launches can give it a better shot of initially appearing higher within rankings. Here are a few simple ways to do that:

  • Embed a “click to tweet” option. Making it easy to share a stat usually works well.
  • Include the post in an email newsletter.
  • Automate the posting of it on your social networks using Zapier. Moz recommends that you use keywords early in any social media update so that they’re immediately visible.
  • Run paid advertising to it by boosting the organic post on Facebook or with a placement on LinkedIn.
  • Feature the post in a fresh news section on your homepage or within your product app.

Now you know how to optimize blog posts for SEO

There you have it! It’s quite simple. And it really works. I’d expect at least a 10% traffic lift for every post you re-optimize based on these steps (assuming your in-post content is Gucci).

The thing is you must actually follow the list. Everyone thinks checklists are for someone else – not them. But I can promise you, the only way to get the best results is to adhere to this list religiously. So print it out, bookmark it, or get it tattooed.

Curious if your blog posts have all the content, search intent matching, and keyword placements needed to be successful? Get in touch with me for an analysis of any blog post for just $99.

I’ll score your post on my proven success template, and provide actionable ways for you to achieve a higher Google ranking. Plus, I’ll review it all with you in a half-hour call and answer any questions you have, so you can apply the method to every piece of content you create. You can probably even put the cost on your company card! Email to get started.

Up next, learn everything you need to know about ranking on Google.

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By Megan Mitzel

I'm the wearer of overalls behind the marketing advice website Marketing Overalls. I'm also a senior marketing director with more than ten years of experience leading acquisition and lifecycle marketing at successful startups. Before that, I got a business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before that, I owned a seashell shop. And that's the tea on me.