Writing great blog posts that rank highly in search engines can be a time consuming affair. Planning a post is crucial if it is to rank well and bring your website tons of free traffic.
As a blogger it can be tempting to simply knock out 200 or 300 word articles twice daily; but that isn’t going to bring much benefit in the long term (although it may have done 4 years ago).
My personal opinion has always been to focus on quality rather than quantity. So in this post I will take you over the things I think about when putting together blog posts for this website and the many other websites that I run.
FINDING GREAT BLOG POST IDEAS
Firstly – before we do anything we need an idea. Something to write about. Often this can be the most difficult part of any bloggers task. Simply coming up with an initial idea can be a nightmare – especially if you find yourself in the kind of rut a lot of writers often do or you are trying to write frequently on a particular niche.
If you sit back though you can often find inspiration all around you. The web is a thriving hub of conversation and ideas and tapping into this is now easier than ever before.
Twitter is a great platform for this. My feed is consistently full of people discussing topics in my niche; sharing content, asking questions, giving opinions, even just having a good old moan.
Maybe you have the answers to some of these common questions? Or maybe you have personal experience you could share of a particular method or idea?
If you spot something interesting make a quick note of it. I often bookmark or even just quickly email myself links and snippets of things I would like to revisit later on.
Here are some ideas to bear in mind when trying to find inspiration for great blog posts:
- Ensure you are following innovative thought leaders on Twitter etc.
- Subscribe to and follow leading blogs in your niche
- Think of problems you personally encounter on a day to day basis
- Think about your strengths and what experience you have that you can share with others
- Read the comments, emails and feedback you get on your blog / website daily
- Think about hot topics, emerging trends and breaking news
The inspiration for this post came from the many people who ask me about how to write great blog posts that do well. I literally get asked this question all the time.
So as I had previously covered some generic tips on how to increase organic traffic to your blog I figured now would be a great time to share some thoughts on how I put together my own articles.
When thinking of a suitable post topic I always try and focus on a hook. By that I mean the thing about the article that will entice users to click and read (It is no good ranking well if nobody clicks)
In this instance we are giving our readers a pretty comprehensive guide on how to achieve a certain goal. Almost anyone can write a decent blog post. But not everyone can write great blog posts that consistently rank well. That is our hook.
There are many angles to take when looking for hooks for your posts. “How to” posts obviously tick that box. But “top lists” (such as 10 top tips for better email templates) can also be enticing and keep people coming back over and over again.
The hook in a top list is the fact you are offering the reader some ready made information. You have done all the hard work and composed a top list that they can quickly scan in order to make an informed decision on a particular subject.There are tons of ways to introduce hooks into your posts though – and not always just via content. You can read an excellent post by Darren Rowse on blog hooks here
Now that we have an idea (and hook) around a topic we need to do some basic keyword research. This involves using a tool such as Google Keyword Tool to identify key phrases and long tail searches around that topic.
Ideally we are looking for something that has decent search volume but quite low competition.
So for this post idea I thought about the following keywords:
Instantly we can see above we have some great keyword combinations with low competition. There are also some decent search volumes against these (especially for the first three suggestions).
Now – it’s worth noting that these search volumes are based on a broad match type.
If we were using the keyword tool to research ideas for a new domain for example then we would probably want to use the exact match type search filter. For a blog post however I find that searching for a broad range of keywords gives great results.
That’s because it gives you estimations of search volumes based on a variation of your chosen keywords. So for example if we take the key phrase above “great blog post” it tells us there are around 9,900 monthly searches.
These will includes variations of that phrase – such as “blog post great”, “blog – great post”, “how to write great blog posts” and more importantly – the title of this post “how to write a great blog post that ranks”
This is perfect as we want to be writing our article using natural language and avoid using the same combination of keywords over and over.“Always focus on writing content for a human audience – never solely for search engines. If an article is genuinely relevant, useful, authoritative and on-topic it will almost always find its way to the top end of rankings.”
LOOK AT THE COMPETITION
Once you have a good few keyword combinations with decent search volume and low competition it’s time to actually Google them. That way you can see the types of posts that are already ranking for those various terms and more importantly get an idea of the titles and descriptions that those posts are using. This will give you an edge when composing your own title and description to outrank the existing competition later.
It also gives you some credible sources of reference that can give your post authority. By linking internally we are creating a great internal link profile, which is important if we want Google and the likes to index our content deeply.
By linking externally however we are also adding authority to our writing. We are proposing an idea and offering other sources that may validate what it is we are trying to say.
Many bloggers make the mistake of solely trying to gain inbound links (both naturally and by approaching other bloggers directly). Do not underestimate the importance of a natural link profile.
We will discuss the importance of internal and external links in more detail later.
So we now have our topic, a chosen keyword or key phrase (which we intend to target) and an idea of the competition who already rank for those words.
Now we need to start getting some basic article structure down.
I do this by thinking about the main points I will be trying to get across. I try to visualise the post in my head as a set of bullet points or subheadings. This may seem strange as we haven’t actually written anything yet but just try to think of the broad points that you may try and make.
For example for this post I thought about the actual steps I take when putting together a blog post. And I simply got them down as a list like this:
- Finding Ideas (Hook)
- Keyword Research
- Competition Analysis
- Article Structure (subheadings, bullets, quotes)
- Internal / External Links
- Images (alt tags, titles, relevance)
- Length of Post
By getting these points or subheadings down in this way you are already making your task much simpler. In order to put together the post you simply need to “fill in the blanks”. Now don’t worry if you need to change subheadings or move them about. At this point it’s not important. The idea here is to simply break up the article you are attempting to create into much smaller chunks. This will not only make the task at hand much less daunting but it will also serve to give you the subheadings that will form the H2 tags of your article.
In other words it gives your article a structure and flow that not only makes it easier for others to read but will also please search engines who specifically look for elements such as heading tags (as well as other factors) in order to determine the context and relevance of an article.
So start getting your thoughts down. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling at this point. Just go from one subheading to the next and write about each. Feel free to bounce between subheadings and get the main points down that you are trying to portray.
Using this technique can transform how you write your blog posts. It allows you to write longer, more in-depth posts more quickly. And it helps to keep your posts on-topic and relevant.
Once you have the basics down revisit each subheading and flush out the content. Adding to or revising what you have written. Rinse and repeat until you have most of the details down.
BULLETS AND QUOTES
Now as the body of our article starts to take shape we can begin to craft and refine it. It is quite important to break up the body of your text by using bullet points and quote blocks (where applicable)
This makes your writing much easier to scan and less overwhelming to the reader.
You may be wondering why this is important from a ranking perspective. Well having great content is not always enough in my opinion – you also need to make your content sticky. You need people to not only visit but to also return (this comes back to the hook principle discussed earlier).
If your content is easy to read and pleasing on the eye your readers are far more likely to bookmark or even share it – and that will vastly improve your ranking in the long term.
The difference between good blog posts and great posts are that great posts tick every single box.
So always try to make your post as good as it can be.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL LINKS
We touched on how important a good natural link profile is for your blog and your posts in general earlier. This is where we now revisit our post and link to any relevant articles (both internally within our own blog and externally to other blogs) that validate what it is we are trying to say.
You will notice there are links throughout this article that do just that. Some point to other relevant post I have made whilst others point to other respected blogs that help to prove or vindicate the point I am trying to make.
Again this is really important. Google is not a search engine as such – it is more a relevance engine. When a search is made it tries to match that user with the most relevant content. By linking to other relevant quality content you are enforcing this idea. Do not be fooled into thinking that only inbound links count. I genuinely believe that given Googles panoramic overview of the web it is easy for the search engine to also evaluate outbound relevance.
Images are really important in the context of an article. Again they not only help to break up the page and give the users something pretty to focus on they also serve another purpose. They allow us to enforce the keywords we are trying to rank for.
Every image you use should have a title tag and an alt tag.
<img src="/path/to/image.jpg" title="some relevant keyword" alt="An image representing relevant keyword" />
Why? Because a search engine has no way (yet) of crawling an image and knowing what that image is about.
So instead they look at the image filename, surrounding text, title and alt tags in order to give the image some context. That’s how we know that search engines place emphasis on these tags.
If Google is using the title and alt tags of an image to give it context, then it is safe to say it is also giving some context to the page on which that image sits. So we should use these tags to further enforce the core keywords and phrases we are looking to rank for.
Again though do not simply stuff keywords. Think from a users perspective. If the image was not loaded would the alt text give the user a text description of what the image was? Make your images relevant and your title and alt tags will naturally be relevant too.
Another thing to bear in mind when writing your post is its length. Now bigger isn’t always better but in the case of blog posts it usually is. A longer blog post usually means a more in-depth blog post with more keyword variations.
I normally aim for around the 2,000 word mark when putting posts together. That doesn’t necessarily mean all my posts will be at least 2,000 words but I feel that is a decent yard stick by which to measure your posts.
Thankfully if you employ the strategy outlined above and split your post into smaller subheading posts then creating long blog posts becomes a LOT easier. Instead of writing one 2,000 word post you are essentially writing several much smaller posts instead (think of each subheading as a small post in its own right).
At this point we are almost there.We have the body of our article and some nice headings, bullets and images to break things up.
We now need to read our post a few times and correct any spelling and grammatical errors. It’s important the article has a nice flow and makes sense to the reader. So use a spell checker and tweak anything that doesn’t look right.
Again don’t be afraid to re-jig the sections or even rewrite large portions. So far we have mostly just been getting thoughts and things down and have just let the ideas flow. Now is the time to really refine and sharpen things up.
OPTIMISING THE POST
Once we have our “finished” article in place the last thing to do is fine tune it. And (if you are using WordPress like me) we can do that using any of the many SEO plugins that are available.
My personal favourite is WordPress SEO by Yoast
This plugin allows us to enter a keyword and analyse our post. It will highlight any issues we may have (missing description, title tag not containing keywords, missing header tags etc.) allowing us to refine and tweak the post until everything looks great.
As you can see above for the keyword “great blog post” we get a green light for all our main areas. The article heading, page title, page URL, Content and Description. So that’s a great start.
But by using the Page Analysis tab we can delve into much more detail.
There is still plenty of green lights. But there are also a few amber and one red. These need to be addressed.
I often go back over the article and start to make final tweaks to improve things. This can involve anything from tweaking the headings to improving the keyword density of the article. Another words increasing the amount of times our keyword and its variations appear in a natural way.
Now this is where a lot of bloggers make mistakes. They go over the top, forget about their readers and start hacking at their article in order to stuff keywords in the hope of “pleasing” the search engines.
Don’t do it.
By stuffing or forcing keywords into your article it will become apparent and the article will lose its natural flow. As i said before you should always write using natural language. So if you can use one of your keyword variations in a natural way that will make sense to the user then by all means do it.
If you article is relevant and genuinely discussing its core topic in detail however you should have plenty of instances of your keywords and key phrases anyway. You should never have to crowbar keywords into your article.
The last thing to do is to assign your post to a relevant category. In this case this post will belong to Driving Traffic and SEO (as that’s what it is about). You will obviously have your own categories so make sure it is relevant.
Also don’t forget to tag your post. Again use keywords that you feel enforce the content of the post and would make sense to the user and you are pretty much done.
TIME TO PUBLISH
After one last scan ensuring the article has been optimised, reads well and has the necessary header tags, images, bullets and quotes you are finally ready to publish.
However this too can have a profound effect on how much visibility your post receives. One of the main things bloggers do once finishing an article is to immediately publish and then share it via Twitter and Facebook etc.
Normally I will finish my posts late at night and it can be tempted to just hit that publish button straight away. Well don’t.
It is best to wait and publish when the majority of your readers will be active.
Personally I prefer peak times. I am happy for my post to be lost in the noise as there is still sufficient activity in order to get some great initial spikes and give the post some visibility.
So there you have it. The fundamental steps I take when composing highly optimised blog posts. Many of you will follow very similar steps I should image, but for others I hope I have given you some food for thought with regards to your own blogging strategy.
A lot of success comes down to planning. And by spending a little longer on the preparation of your blog post and conducting a little research you can see huge differences to both your ranking and your organic traffic.
If you have any thoughts or anything you would like to add please feel free in the comments below. And if you found this article interesting please use the share buttons below to spread the love.