How to Write a Blog Post Optimized for Search
Writing a blog. Those three words make most people shudder. Memories abound of long hours spent pouring words onto the computer in the hopes that someone would read them, or even care, only to end up having a blog section with little organization and absolutely zero traffic. So many times I’ve asked potential clients if they have invested in content marketing at all, and they respond back with “We wrote a couple blog posts back in 2017 but no one came to the site to read them.”
If you sit down to write an article in the hopes of driving traffic to your website without doing keyword research, soliciting backlinks, or utilizing tools to determine important metrics (word count, readability, etc.) then you are simply guessing that:
1) People are searching for what you are writing about
2) Once they get there they will care.
Important note: This guide is not about writing a newsletter or sharing a blog update with your current customers. In that case, you aren’t trying to capture new organic search traffic, so all that matters is whether or not it will resonate with your email list and/or customer base
We’re going to go in-depth on all of these in the following paragraphs, but here is a quick checklist for writing a blog post:
If you’re like me, it’s easiest to learn when you follow along with actionable items you can actually see and not just crazy marketing rhetoric that makes whatever you’re trying to do seem impossible. I’m going to walk you through the above 9 steps and how we implemented them for a recent piece of content we created for Airplantman. The final content “Air Plant Care Guide” lives here now and floats between ranking 1st and 2nd on Google for the search query “air plant care”, a 12100/mo search term, amongst many others.
Understanding what you want your content to show up for before you begin writing is super important. Frankly, it’s essential in order to create a piece of content that will resonate with searchers.
When writing content for clients or for myself, I like to run a quick report on SEMrush to see all of the keywords I am currently ranking for on the 2nd-4th page of Google with a search volume greater than 1000/mo. For example, we recently created an article for Wine Insiders as a part of a huge content overhaul we are doing on their site. Why did we choose Montepulciano d’Abruzzo? For one, it’s delicious, but more importantly, Wine Insiders currently ranks in the 33rd position for the search query “Montepulciano wine”--a term with 9900 searches a month.
In our experience, it is much easier to move a client’s site ranking from the 3rd page to the 1st page or the 2nd page to the 1st page than it is to take a keyword they aren’t currently ranking for and catapult it to the 1st page (though in the case of Airplantman they actually were not ranking for “air plant care”).
electrIQ tip: Why are we so obsessed with ranking on the 1st page? 95% of searchers don’t make it past the 1st page of their Google search, with 31% of searchers stopping at the 1st result alone, so it’s very much a winner take all game (https://www.advancedwebranking.com/ctrstudy/). It’s important to be ranking for keywords off the 1st page, otherwise known as “pooling keywords”, because it’s easier to move them onto the 1st page that way, but they will have little to no effect on your website’s traffic.
When you can’t find any appropriate ‘low-hanging fruit’ keywords, it’s time to turn to competitor research (which you’ll be doing in step 2 anyways). There are a variety of ways to find your online competitors--word of mouth, shared keyword rankings, general knowledge, a quick google search--but the easiest one to do without software is to come up with a list of “pie in the sky” keywords.
An example of a “pie in the sky” keyword for Airplantman would be “air plants”. At 74,000 searches per month, ranking on the first page for a keyword like that can have a significant impact on any business, especially a small business.
electrIQ tip: You can project SEO rankings to revenue pretty easily. Use the chart below to get your estimated CTR for keyword position. Then, you can calculate the total search volume x CTR x your organic conversion rate x your avg. order value to get an estimated monthly contribution to revenue. “Air plants” example at 1st position: 74,000 x .31 x.05 x $100 = $114,700. If Airplantman showed up in the 1st result for “air plants” on Google, they could roughly estimate an increase of $114,700 in revenue. That’s a significant amount for any business!
Once you have identified your competitor/s, in this case hemleva.com and airplantsupplyco.com, use a tool like SEMrush to identify their high ranking pieces of content. Low and behold, their highest ranking page is “General Air Plant Care Guide”.
Now that we have identified what keywords we want to target, “air plant care” as well as our pie-in-the-sky “air plants”, it’s time to do some content research and analysis to carefully craft and execute our content creation.
The simplest way to do content research and analysis is with Google. Anytime you search something on Google, the first 10 search results show you exactly what kind of content Google is looking for. You are basically given a roadmap for content success.
Take a look at the first couple results and try to hone in on keywords used, the average word count, and more. Once you’ve identified these variables, you want to use what is called the “skyscraper” content method and essentially one-up these pieces of content. You’re taking what is already ranking on the 1st page on Google but doing it better by including more information that increases its usefulness to the searcher.
The expert way to do content research and analysis is with SEMrush. First, you’re going to start by creating an SEO Content Template. Navigate to SEO Content Template in the left side navigation bar. From there, enter the keywords you want your content to rank for. In our Airplantman example, we used “air plant”, “air plant care”, “air plant care guide”, and “air plants for sale.” Once you’ve entered your keywords, click Create SEO Template.
SEMrush can now analyze the content on Google’s top 10-ranking pages for your target keywords, taking out all of the guess-work we would have to do with just Googling.
SEMrush will also provide you with key recommendations based on their analysis for semantically related keywords you should include, backlinks you should try to acquire, a readability score, the average text length, and whether or not you should incorporate video.
In addition, you will also be able to see how your competitors are using their target keywords in their meta titles and meta descriptions (the info that appears in Google search).
Once you have reviewed these recommendations, click on the tab Real-time Content Check to begin writing your article. You can also navigate to SEO Writing Assistant in the left navigation side-bar that will take you to a landing page where you can choose which of your previous content templates you want to use to write with.
This tool will give you real time feedback on your content and let you know how it compares to the pieces of high ranking content for your selected keywords. Everything from tone of voice to reading level to recommended keywords are included for you.
This is invaluable when writing content. Yes, you could do intensive research on Google to try and identify trends and patterns in high ranking content, but SEMrush completely streamlines this process and makes it easy for you to start writing well optimized content.
SEMrush aside, a rule of thumb we like to follow is to produce content that is at least 1000 words, but preferably 1200 words or more. serpIQ conducted a study that showed the average word length for a piece of content that shows up first on Google is well over 2000 words.
Obviously, this varies from keyword to keyword, which is why we aim for at least 1000 words. The more specific your post, the shorter it will end up being. For example, our red wine guide on Wine Insiders is over 3300 words but the individual varietal guides (ex. Cabernet Sauvignon) are ~1000.
While longer form content does rank better, you want to break it up into easily digestible tid-bits. Almost no one reads articles fully anymore. Skim reading is the new normal according to multiple research reports highlighted in this Guardian article.
Given that almost everyone will be skimming your content, it’s crucial you not only keep paragraphs under 300 words but that you utilize headers to break up your content periodically throughout your article. As you can see in this post, I laid out my 9 key talking points at the beginning and identified them with H2’s throughout the article while also utilizing H3’s (subheaders) to break up the content within these 9 points.
Someone who clicks on this article could easily decide they only want to read about point #1 and point #8.
You’ve finally completed your blog post, and now it’s time to publish. You have a few key decisions to make.
Gated content means that people are going to have to give their email address, or some other type of information (maybe even $), in order to access your content. On the flip side, ungated content means they can access it for free.
Which option you choose is entirely dependent upon your business models and goals.
Just because you put together a 2400 word piece of content doesn’t mean you’re done yet. The best pieces of content are not only expertly written but also include images and videos in order to immerse the reader. Give your content a readthrough on your site and see if it’s easy to get through and engaging.
You’re not limited to only publishing on your website. For example, anytime we post content on our electrIQ site we also post the content as a Linkedin article and on my personal website.
You could choose to publish on outlets like Medium and Blogger as well.
Just because you’ve published your post doesn’t mean you’re done quite yet. While you can publish to different media outlets, you are going to want to share your article across all of your social channels. Think Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, and so on. In addition, if you have an email list, you’ll want to send out an email directing them to your new post.
A study conducted by Moz showed a direct correlation between the length of content and the number of backlinks pointing to it. In addition to these naturally occurring links, you’ll want to conduct outreach to websites asking them to point to your post. One example for the air plant care guide is reaching out to anyone with an air plant blog post that doesn’t have an air plant care guide. That would be a great opportunity for them to provide their readers with value by linking to our air plant care guide without having to write their own.
If you follow the above steps, you will be well on your way to creating high quality, long-form content that will drive organic traffic and conversions for your business. Now, you need to decide if you’ll do this in-house or hire an agency.
If you’re interested in electrIQ creating a content marketing strategy and executing it for you, fill out your custom proposal request here. We’ll do a deep dive on your business with our research and analysis tools as well as conduct a 30 minute phone consultation, all for free, to determine your areas of potential and if we’ll be a good growth partner for you.
Happy blog writing!