I admit I was in denial about SEO when I started writing professionally. I had zero SEO insights.
In those early days, I was a ‘pen for hire’. Tell me what you wanted, and I wrote it. I had a loose understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) but left it with the business owner or marketer who hired me to sort all that out once I’d handed across the words. Yes, I cringe about that today!
One day, I was hired by someone on Upwork to write blog posts and reviews for a technical and competitive niche.
This client wouldn’t even let me get started until I’d watched several specific videos describing how to write for SEO. He even tested me afterwards to make sure I’d understood them! After I’d written each article, he made me go back and make sure each piece contained the appropriate number of keywords using some fancy AI tool he gave me access to. I learned a lot, but still, I considered it a client-specific quirk.
I didn’t appreciate the value of the SEO insights I had learned from him until much later. If I could go back to the start of my writing career, this is what I wish I’d known from the start.
1. Getting insights into SEO isn’t as hard as it sounds
So much valuable SEO information is freely available on the internet.
But, probably like you, I’m not keen on expensive or time-consuming courses. So, when I came across Neil Patel’s monster post about SEO, I realised it was a treasure trove of easy-to-access and easy-to-digest information. He’s not wrong that it’s like an MBA in SEO!
Admittedly, SEO isn’t easy, but I set aside an hour a week to hear or read about SEO from different experts and the mist gradually started to clear.
Neil Patel’s article includes links to five courses and as a result I found the Hubspot Academy SEO course. Not only is it free and fast – I did it in about three hours one wet and cold Sunday afternoon – I could also take an exam at the end to check what I’d learned.
The hardest part about getting insights into SEO turned out to be setting aside a regular time to continue learning more about it, and staying up to date as it’s constantly evolving.
2. Track and measure your results to get SEO insights
Google and other search engines actually do want people to find valuable content.
Even so, achieving good SEO results can feel like a cat and mouse game as a content creator. Yes, the rules seem to change all the time, but only in the interests of helping even more people find relevant answers instantly!
Several free, low-cost, or paid SEO tools can help you audit, measure and optimise your SEO efforts. Google Search Console, Ubersuggest, Semrush, Ahrefs, Yoast, and Moz offer some of the best free, trial and paid SEO tools, courses and trackers. If you haven’t already, and while not specifically an SEO tool, do ensure you have set up Google Analytics, too, to track traffic and customer insights.
Measuring even quite basic KPIs such as website traffic volume, and where/how people are finding you will help you understand how well your content marketing and SEO efforts are doing.
3. Target the right keywords
As someone who genuinely had no SEO insights when I started, it was hard to get my head around identifying the right keywords for my business.
The answers to the following questions may help you identify keywords that draw visitors to your website and people to your business:
- What do you want your business to be known for?
- What do you do and where do your customers come from? E.g., do you want to be found as a ‘Sydney-based bakery’, or an ‘Australia-wide toy maker’. Including the geographical area your cover in your website helps specify who you serve.
- What are you an expert on? What topics do you like talking about?
- What questions do your prospects and customers have? What questions might they type into Google that you’d like to answer for them on your website?
- What words and phrases are your competitors getting found for?
Again, there are plenty of tools to help you with keywords such as Answer the Public and Google Keywords Planner (though this one does require signing up to Google Ads).
Choose a topic to write about based around the keywords or key phrases you’d like to be found for.
You don’t have to boil the ocean and include every keyword you want to rank for in each post you write. In fact, don’t do this! Instead, include keywords relevant to the topic you write about. Write naturally, including related keywords where it makes sense.
4. Optimise your page, titles, images and headings for SEO
You’re writing for people primarily, not search engines, so make sure your title, images and subheadings are eye-catching and interesting.
As a secondary step, help search engines put your writing in front of the right people by:
- Crafting a ‘Goldilocks’ length meta description about your post
That is, ensure it is between 50 and 155 characters long so it doesn’t get truncated when it shows up in the search rankings.
- Adding accurate descriptions to the image file names and description fields you use
Describing your images helps with accessibility in general. If you mention the relevant keyword/s related to your topic here, it helps with SEO, too.
- Including plenty of subheadings and lots of white space.
An easy reading experience helps skimmers and in-depth readers alike find the relevant information they’re looking for.
- Creating great titles for your posts
Many people balk at thinking up titles, probably because we’re repeatedly told how important it is to make them engaging, specific, relevant, unique and action-focused. I use Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer tool and over time my headline skills have become faster and better.
5. Use links, internally and externally
‘Web’ forms part of the ‘www’ for a reason! All websites and webpages are connected to each other by links. These links serve two key purposes:
- Links help search engines find, index and rank your webpages. In part, they help the Google spiders crawl from one page to another. A standalone page with few links is harder to locate and contextualise.
- Links also act like votes for how relevant and interesting that webpage is. When external websites link to your webpages this sends a signal that the content here is useful.
You can use internal links within your website to create a robust set of interconnecting pages by linking relevant anchor text to other pages on your website. This helps visitors explore your site further.
You can link to external sites, too. Even though clicking on these links takes your visitor away from your webpage, even temporarily, it can help validate information you are sharing and help your credibility, especially when linking to high-authority websites.
Backlinks are far less within your control and occur when another website links back to your webpages. Backlinks are a good indicator of popularity and authority and are, in the main, considered valuable for achieving higher SEO rankings.
Key takeaways for improving the SEO of your blog
Building up your search engine rankings takes weeks, if not months. If you get started now, you’ll be pleased you did six months down the track! I certainly felt like I was performing to an empty auditorium when I first started writing my blog.
SEO isn’t easy, and it can feel overwhelming if you get stuck down an SEO rabbit hole full of technical jargon and references.
However, if you’re serious about getting found by the people you want to serve, entertain and engage with:
- Learn some basic SEO and build your insights and knowledge over time
- Measure metrics that are important to you (e.g., page visits, clicks, conversions)
- Get clear about what you want to be known for and write about it
- Write for your audience first and search engines second. Simple optimisation through good use of heading, tags and descriptions enhances your chance of being found
- Ensure you give yourself every chance of being found by adding internal and external links to other relevant information about the topic you’re writing about
And if you find yourself throwing your hands up in despair, do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like some assistance getting started, or re-started(!) with your blog, including SEO-friendly optimisation.
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor.
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
I bring comprehensive practical experience to supporting your writing needs.