Mastering the Art of Blog Writing for SEO: Best Practices and Evolution
Here is what to expect in this article:
In the ever-evolving landscape of the internet, blogs have become a fundamental digital strategy tool for businesses, content creators, and individuals looking to establish their online presence. A blog provides websites with the ability to bake keywords into their pages while demonstrating authority in their fields.
As the digital world has grown, so has the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) for blogs. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the history of blog writing, its convergence with SEO, the evolution of Google's ranking factors, and the best practices for optimizing your blog posts to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
A Journey Through the History of Blog Writing
Before we dive into the world of SEO, let's take a brief trip down memory lane to explore the history of blog writing.
The Dawn of Blogging
Blogs, short for "weblogs," emerged in the late 1990s as personal online journals. Early bloggers used platforms like Blogger and LiveJournal to share their thoughts, experiences, and stories with a limited audience. These were simple, text-heavy websites with minimal formatting (like most of the internet was back in 1999)
Blogging Goes Mainstream
The early 2000s witnessed the proliferation of blogs across the internet. They became platforms for discussing various topics, including technology, travel, fashion, and more. As the popularity of blogging grew, so did the need for improved visibility in search engines. Search engines use complex algorithms to crawl, index, and rank web content based on relevance and quality, ultimately selecting the most suitable results to display to users. The methods that the search engines use to do this job are numerous and they change all the time, though the core mission of the search engines always stay the same: show the searcher the most valuable content.
(keep this concept of "value" in your mind as this is the most important thing when it comes to blogging - creating valuable content for your audience)
The Intersection of Blog Posts and SEO
The convergence of blog posts and SEO took place in the mid-2000s when marketers recognized the potential of optimizing content for search engines to increase organic traffic. This marked the beginning of a new era for bloggers, where writing engaging content alone was no longer sufficient. In the beginning, this simply meant posting A LOT! Companies flooded the internet with text about their products and services and for a while this was a sufficient "hack" to get a lot of traffic. Of course, today the search algorithms are not so primitive and this tactic is no longer relevant.
The Birth of SEO for Blogs
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) became a crucial aspect of blogging as bloggers realized that they could reach a broader audience by optimizing their content for search engines. This era saw the emergence of practices like keyword optimization, meta tags, and link building. If you are not familiar with those concepts, click the links on any of those topics and read a little more about them - they are a fundamental part of blogging for SEO.
The Panda and Penguin Updates
In 2011, Google introduced the Panda and Penguin updates, which aimed to improve the quality of search results by penalizing low-quality content and manipulative link-building practices. This forced bloggers to focus on producing high-quality, valuable content.
This is arguably the most important pivot in the short history of SEO and was the foundation for most of the updates we have seen in years since 2011. Ultimately since 2011 the algorithm developers have been focused on refining the search engine's ability to identify value for the searcher. Every year we get at least one big update to the algorithm, to start learning more about the 2023 update, click here.
In recent years there has been a big focus on what Google calls E-A-T. Here is quick excerpt from the Search Engine Journal about what E-A-T is:
E-A-T is one of many guidelines Google uses to determine whether the content is valuable to readers and whether it should rank well. The first mention of E-A-T occurred in 2014 when Google added the concept to their Search Quality Guidelines. Google search quality evaluators were instructed to pay attention to: The expertise of the creator of the content. The authoritativeness of the creator of the content, the content itself, and the website. The trustworthiness of the creator of the content, the content itself, and the website. Search Engine Journal - What Exactly is EAT
I advise you not to get too caught up in the specifics of core updates... To be honest, I see it as mostly hype - hype that keeps the SEO business ever relevant... But I digress. Having your thumb on the general principles of the algorithm will help you make informed choices, but getting consumed by the technical aspects of these algorithms will probably confuse you or just distract you from writing content.
The Mobile Revolution
With the rise of mobile devices, Google shifted its algorithm's focus towards mobile-friendliness. Blogs that weren't optimized for mobile suffered in search rankings. Responsive design became a must-have feature for bloggers. Luckily most blogging platforms like that on Wix etc. are automatically optimised for Mobile - so most bloggers do not have to think about this too much.
Key Takeaways From The Evolution of Google's Ranking Factors
Understanding the evolution of Google's ranking factors is crucial for creating SEO-friendly blog posts, but understanding the details is not necessary, here are the main areas that Google considers important (inn no particular order):
In the early days of blogging, content quality was often overlooked. However, Google's algorithms became smarter, and content quality became a significant ranking factor. Today, well-researched, comprehensive, and authoritative content tends to rank higher.
User experience (UX) is a critical factor in SEO. Google considers factors like page load speed, mobile-friendliness, and a clutter-free layout when ranking pages. Ensuring a positive user experience is essential for blog success.
Backlinks, or inbound links from other reputable websites, remain a crucial ranking factor. However, Google's algorithms have become more sophisticated in evaluating the quality and relevance of these links. Building natural, high-quality backlinks is vital.
Keyword optimization has evolved from keyword stuffing to a more natural integration of keywords. Long-tail keywords and semantic search have become significant trends. Strive for relevance and user intent when using keywords in your blog posts.
Best Practices for Writing SEO-Friendly Blog Posts
Now that we've covered the historical context and evolution of SEO for blogs, let's delve into the best practices to help you write SEO-friendly blog posts in the modern era.
1. Keyword Research and Optimization
- Keyword Research
Start by conducting thorough keyword research to identify relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience is searching for. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to discover high-traffic, low-competition keywords.
- Natural Integration
Once you have your keywords, integrate them naturally into your content. Avoid keyword stuffing, which can harm your rankings. Focus on providing value and relevance to readers.
2. Quality Content
- Comprehensive and In-Depth
Create comprehensive and in-depth content that thoroughly addresses the topic. High-quality, informative content is more likely to attract backlinks and rank well.
- Engaging Writing
Write engaging, well-structured content that keeps readers on your page. Use headings, bullet points, and images to break up text and enhance readability.
3. Meta Tags and Descriptions
- Title Tags
Craft compelling title tags that accurately represent your content and include your target keyword. Keep them concise (around 60 characters) and attention-grabbing.
- Meta Descriptions
Write informative meta descriptions that encourage users to click on your link. Include your keyword naturally while describing the content's value.
4. Mobile Optimization
- Responsive Design
Ensure your blog is responsive and mobile-friendly. Google prioritizes mobile-optimized websites in its rankings.
5. Page Speed
- Fast Loading Times
Optimize your blog's loading times. Users expect pages to load quickly, and Google rewards fast-loading sites with higher rankings.
6. Internal and External Links
- Internal Links
Use internal links to connect related content within your blog. This helps users navigate your site and boosts SEO.
- High-Quality External Links
Include relevant external links to authoritative sources. This can enhance your content's credibility.
7. Visual Content
- High-Quality Images
Incorporate high-quality images, infographics, and videos into your blog posts when relevant. Visual content enhances engagement and can earn backlinks.
8. Social Sharing
- Social Media Integration
Make it easy for readers to share your content on social media. Social signals can indirectly impact your rankings.
9. Long-Form Content
- Comprehensive Guides
Consider creating long-form content, such as ultimate guides or tutorials. Google often rewards well-researched, lengthy content with higher rankings.
10. Regular Updates
- Fresh Content
Update your blog regularly with fresh content. Google tends to favor active websites that provide up-to-date information.
The Blog Writing Minimums: Keywords, Word Count, Images, and Post Length
As a blogger, you might wonder about the minimum requirements for keywords, word count, images, and post length. While there are no strict rules, some general guidelines can help.
Minimum Keywords per Post
There is no fixed minimum number of keywords you must feature in a blog post. Instead, focus on using keywords naturally and ensuring they align with the content's topic and user intent. Aim for a primary keyword and a few related keywords.
Minimum Word Count per Post
While blog posts can vary widely in length, a general recommendation is to aim for a minimum of 1,500 to 2,000 words for informative, comprehensive content. However, shorter posts can be effective for certain topics or niches, as long as they provide value.
Minimum Images per Post
Incorporating images is essential for enhancing the visual appeal and engagement of your blog posts. Aim for at least one high-quality image per 500 words of content, but use images when they genuinely enhance the user experience or illustrate key points.
Minimum Post Length
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to the minimum length of a blog post. Focus on delivering valuable content that fully addresses the topic. If you can do that concisely in 800 words, that's perfectly acceptable. However, longer, in-depth posts often perform better in search results.
How often should you blog (blogging frequency)
Blog traffic spikes when a company reaches 11 blog posts per month, compared to less frequent blogging. - Hubspot study on b2b blogging frequency
This is a very common question for a lot of new bloggers, how often should I blog to see an increase in my traffic, or how often do I need to blog for it to have an effect on my SEO.
I want to stress here that there is no right answer to these questions and that before you focus on frequency of posting you should be focusing on the minimums that I wrote about above. If you post 100 "bad quality" blogs every week it will actually have a negative impact on your traffic and your SEO. The Google Algorithm is very complex; it not only looks at the quality of the content on a site but also how much interest that content garners from the website audience. If your content gets no attention from your audience, Google will start to see you whole site as potentially " not valuable". So again, I really stress the idea: QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.
Now, let's assume every blog post you write is a quality post - how often should you blog. According to a few studies that I have read there is a significant benefit in posting regularly with average optimum frequency being 1 blog post per week. That said, the peak advantage went to sites that posted between 10 - 12 blogs per week. After that, the benefit of regular posting plateaus dramatically and so most experts recommend scheduling blog posts in excess of 11 posts for the following week.
It has to be said that there seems to be a bigger benefit in being consistent over a long period of time rather than posting a high number of posts every week for a relatively short period of time. In other words, posting three times a week for 4 months and then stopping will not be as effective as posting 1 blog post per week for 1 year. Have a look at this post about Blogging Frequency to learn more on the topic.
I would rank the importance of these blogging factors like this:
The ultimate goal for a blog writer or website with a blog should be to post quality content consistently at a sustainable frequency over a long period of time.
In the dynamic world of blogging and SEO, staying up to date with best practices is essential. Understanding the history of blog writing, its evolution alongside SEO, and Google's ever-changing ranking factors can help you create blog posts that not only rank well but also provide value to your audience. By implementing the best practices outlined in this guide and adapting to future developments, you'll be well-equipped to excel in the competitive world of online content creation. Of course this guide is not an exhaustive list and there are other things like document structure or using quotes etc. that we have not covered - but I have purposefully left those out because no matter how your post is structured it should conform the best practices I have outlined within this post.
A note on AI generated blog post writing
You may have noticed that I did not touch on using AI to generate blog posts... This is because whether or not you use AI to generate your blog posts the fundamentals of effective blog post writing will stay the same. I discourage people from using AI because more often than not it makes the writer lazy. Any good writer knows the power of self editing and revisions - most people who use AI to generate blog posts don't even edit them (or even read them). If you are going to use AI to generate your blog posts, make you sure that you edit them and ensure that they include the "minimums" that I wrote about above. So long as your blog meets those minimum requirements, it doesn't really matter whether AI did the brunt of the work or not.
My final thought on Blog Writing for SEO
If you take one thing away from this blog post let it be this: Quality blogs provide value to your audience and Google is always looking to provide value to searchers.