The Definitive Guide to Blogging for SEO in 2018

In an ever-changing SEO landscape, here's everything you need to know about blogging for SEO in 2018.

First of all....

Q) What is blogging for SEO? 

A) Writing blog posts that are as RELEVANT as possible to the phrases ("keywords") your target audience types into Google.

When someone searches for a business that does your thing, Google presents what it defines as the very best websites on the subject; established, up-to-date, and packed with detailed information about the very thing you do. You want to be one of those sites, right? Then get blogging!

Anyone — including you — can use Google's relevance measures (or 'ranking factors') to their advantage to blog their way to the top of search results.

Still sceptical as to whether blogging can work for your small business? Check out Will writing a blog really boost your search rank.

If you're already convinced, read on for the secrets of making it to the top...

1. Know your keywords and cross-reference them with new posts

AKA: Stay relevant!

In 2018, keywords are very definitely still essential, but not in the way they used to be. Don't repeat the same keyword 100 times in your page description — Google would ignore you at best and penalise you at worse.

Instead, work your keywords naturally into the copy. To do this: 

  • Always write about your specialist subject.
  • Always use similar words to describe what you do — write them down and tape them to your desk.

You'll find certain words pop up on your Home, About and Services pages (to name a few) and are included in your business and page descriptions. Make them generally consistent. Depending on what you do, there could be quite a few different ways to describe yourself. Settle on a short job title of five words at the most.

Now expand your job title into a short description of the things you do — around 20 or 30 words.

Make sure every post relates to your title and description

Every blog post you write should be so relevant to what you do that the words in your job title and description naturally fall into the introduction to your post. If not, why not? Are you going off on a tangent? Sure, write about your vacation if you like, but link your content back to your specialist subject. Google knows how words relate to each other, and therefore which words it expects to see in a 'good' post on the subject. 

SEO experts advise using your keywords in the first 100 or so words of your posts, but you don't have to use every word exactly as it is, i.e. "coaching" is just as good as "coach."

By the way... if you've been writing a blog for a long time without getting much traffic, check your homepage and website description content. If your keywords aren't prominent, fill them in. By joining the dots you make it easier for Google to present your posts to the people who need them.

Finally, tag your posts with relevant subjects and keywords. Tagging is built in to Squarespace and other website builder platforms. For Wordpress you'll need a tag plugin.

Pay attention to the post URL

Common website platforms allow you to tweak the URL for your post before you go live. It should be a sensible summary of the title, or the title itself if it's not too long. For example: /definitive-guide-to-SEO-2018

2. Use blog posts to answer your customers' questions

AKA: Know your audience and solve their problems!

Voice search is exploding in 2018, and the majority of voice searches are questions. Answering your customers' questions not only demonstrates expertise, it means you can attract potential customers to your website before they even realise they need you.

Blogspiration Tip 1: What is your 'why'?

Plumbers exist to keep water running and the houses warm and dry. How could this translate into blog posts? For example, you could write about how to perform small maintenance tasks that will help prevent bigger problems.

Blogspiration Tip 2: What do your clients ask you?

If you have clients you will hear questions. Every one of these questions is a potential post.

Google a common question and you'll see further suggestions based on the questions people ask Google every day. Aim to provide the best possible, detailed answers to the most common questions. Use the exact question in your post title and scatter it throughout the content.

An easy (and free!) place to find keyword suggestions is LSIGraph. Enter the question you are answering and it will give you a list of keyword phrases. Let these keywords inspire further content, and, where appropriate and natural, include them in your posts.

Blogspiration Tip 3: What do your competitors have to say?

Google a subject that really interests you — something you know a lot about — and read what your competitors have to say on the matter. Do you agree with them? Could you add something people don't already know? Your version of a post on the same issue might have a better title and could be longer and more detailed. It might frame the problem and the solution in a different, more interesting way.

Aim to be the go-to post for that particular issue by doing it better than anyone else. Include actionable advice.

For more inspiration, check out how to beat blog-lag and get writing again.

3. Entice clicks in search results

AKA: Grab attention with the post title and description!

Have you noticed how hard it is these days to find search results amongst the adverts, images and suggestions on a Google search results page? Your posts have to work harder than ever to stand out.

Here is a tip from SEO superhero Backlinko to help you improve your click through rate in search results. Professional Google advertisers know exactly which words grab clicks — instantaneous words like TODAY, NOW, FAST, EASY, QUICK, SIMPLE. Use these words in your page title and description.

Here's another one: Google a specific phrase or keyword and check which words are used in the Adwords ads. Put the common words and phrases in your own title and description.

4. Optimise for engagement over clicks

AKA: Write detailed, long posts that people will read!

55% of users spend less than 15 seconds on a webpage. If a post beats the average, that's a good indicator of relevance and quality. According to a study by Searchmetrics, the average time a person stays on the top 10 search results (dwell time) is 3 minutes and 10 seconds.

In fact, dwell time is quickly becoming the most important ranking factor for Google. You can improve dwell time by:

  • Writing long, detailed posts - aim for 2000 words
  • Filling your posts with facts and stats
  • Adding your own spin to commonly-blogged issues

Research previously told us people don't scroll. While it's true you have to give someone good reason to scroll, they do keep reading if it's worth their time.

So forget keeping it short. Write efficiently of course, but add all the detail your audience might need. In 2016, the average length of post on page 1 of results was 1,890 words. These days the advice is to write at least 2000 words! A long post is much more likely to answer someone's question than a short one.

A great blog post contains bags of helpful, actionable information. It answers a question or solves a problem. Write honestly and passionately and base your assertions on personal experience and evidence-based research. 

People engage with news far longer than they engage with clickbait (well durr), so report on the latest in your field. Question traditional wisdom and predict the future.

Great bloggers write attractive, readable content, breaking up long pages into small paragraphs and using lots of sub-headings and graphics (oops sorry about that...). They state and restate the problem you face, bringing you to feel the sheer 'AARRRGH!' of the issue before dropping the answer or leading you somewhere else to find it.

Above all, play around. You can find out your dwell times in Google Analytics. Tweak, tweak, tweak, and repeat.

5. Link to your sources

AKA: Back up your advice with facts!

It's vital to state where you got your information from, but will linking to external websites boost your search rank?

Most of what we know about blogging and SEO comes through retrospective research on what worked and what didn't. We know Google LOVES to see other sites linking to your site, and we know linking out to popular sites in your field indicates relevance, but doesn't necessarily help your search engine ranking.

Although the jury is out on whether you should link to other sites, my instinct tells me Google favours anything that helps people, and external links are helpful. Other sites will see you linking to them and may well reciprocate.

If you don't want to link, at least reference the information for reliability, and so it can be Googled.

6. Keep your posts up to date

AKA: Prove your integrity!

If you mention a year or time of year in a post, consider how the post will look in future. Set yourself reminders to update these posts in the future or stay away from anything that could potentially make you look out of date altogether.

Google loves a living, breathing, regularly-updated website. That is, updated with brand new content, tweaked, rewritten and always true.

I regularly Google SEO and web design subjects, only to find the posts at the top of search results were written two, three or 10 years ago! How do I know if they are still up to date? Adding dated a note to the top of the post whenever you update the post will reassure your audience that you're on it — they're not at risk of being misled by information from the deep and distant past.

7. Keep going

AKA: Get established!

We know most domains don't stick around for long; a year or two at the most. If you make it past two years you are in the minority.

Buying your domain for a long period of time signals to Google that you're in it for the long haul.

Continuing to update and add to the content to your site for longer than two years is even better.

Be relevant, be detailed, and, above all, don't give up. Blogging alone will boost your search rank if you follow my advice, but it could take up to 18 months to see any real traffic in the absence of any other traffic-driving initiatives.

What did I miss?

If you already know a thing or two about SEO, you're probably screaming at the screen' "What about mobile optimisation?! What about backlinks?!"

Google rankings and mobile optimisation

Google evaluates the mobile version of your website when determining its relevance and ranking. Why? Because most Google searches are now performed on phones. A search engine that throws up websites that look crappy on a phone is a crappy search engine.

Older Wordpress sites may no longer make the cut. Look at your site on your phone. Can you see everything? Is any content cut off? If your site looks bad, you have no choice but to update it if you want it to be found in search results.

SEO and "back links"

A back link is a link  from a third-party website to your website. Good quality blog posts will earn links from other sites, simply by virtue of being good. Before Google got good at measuring the quality of the actual content, back links were its most important measure of quality. But back links are easy to manipulate and cheat so they are less important than they used to be.

That's not to say back links won't help you. If you write a great piece of content, write to popular industry bloggers and ask them nicely to share it too.

The future of blogging for SEO

Google is constantly looking for better ways to define and deliver the most relevant answers to the questions people ask. Most searches are currently made by typing into a Google search box. As our homes become increasingly voice-controlled and our phones get better at understanding us, voice search will gradually take over. At the same time we will expect video and audio content to answer our questions.

My best tip for the future is to consider video as well as written blog content. One day in the not-so-distant future, Google will be able to 'read' your video content as easily as it reads your blog posts. Think about what that means for you and your website's content.

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Have you made it to page 1 through blogging alone? How did you achieve your best blog post rankings? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below.