Everyone knows that keeping an optimized, constantly updated blog with is one of the most reliable ways to start building a site up and drive organic traffic in. The question is: if something so simple can have such a positive impact on your optimization strategy, why isn’t everybody taking advantage of it?
Well, for one, a lot of optimized websites already do. Especially those who have some professional SEO firm backing them up.
However, among those who aren’t, you can usually sort them out into two groups: Those who think they are but are actually missing the mark in several critical areas. And those who just go “I’m not a writer” or “I don’t know how” and just leave the blog section collecting dust.
This guide’s here to get you out of the first group, if you are there, or take the excuse away if you are in the second one.
You don’t need to be Stephen King to maintain an SEO optimized blog that brings traffic to your site, but you do need a plan. A formula. Something that keeps you from running around like a headless chicken wasting time, effort, and ending up frustrated when things don’t pan out.
Your Blogpost’s Blueprint
Engineers don’t wake up one day and go “Welp, I guess it’s time to go put that building together.” We’d all be buried in rubble already if there wasn´t any kind of planning involved. No, every building, from a tiny hut to a skyscraper begins with a blueprint. Something that helps plan, anticipate, execute, and prevent wasting resources.
Quality content for your blog is no different.
Yes, you could sit around looking at a blank screen waiting to be knocked in the head with the inspiration fairy’s crowbar. OR you can do the work and get the results. We’ll give you a moment to decide which is better.
Once you have a plan – once you know what to do – creating quality content for your blog becomes another optimization task to take care of. A task that, as with everything else in life, might seem hard at first but will get easier as you keep at it consistently.
Oh, and being consistent? That´s Key.
Otherwise, your blogging strategy will hardly yield any results. Let’s call that “lesson zero.”
This means that, if you start feeling at some point like this might be too much of a chore, you must stick to it no matter what. It might take you an hour or more to go through the whole blueprint the first time you go at it. But do it enough, and you’ll be pumping great, optimized blog pieces in no time – Especially if you follow the extra tips at the end.
Stage 1 – Choose Your Topic
Ideas are cheap, and that makes the blueprint’s first stage really simple: All you need to do here is to come up with a topic to write about. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that.
Having troubles already? Don’t fret, a lot of people do until they understand they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Think about your business/niche/product for a moment. Then, think about related topics your target audience might be interested in. Write a couple down.
Still nothing? That’s ok too. If you are short on ideas, you just need to “steal” like an artist.
Do a couple of laps around your competitors’ sites, niche blogs, forums, relevant subreddits… Even a twitter #hashtag search. See what people in those places are interested in or talking about. Find a couple of those you are familiar with, or would be able to talk about, or chip in with a different perspective and write them down.
Congrats, Stage 1 of the blueprint is complete. Once you have at least one solid topic you can write about – even if you don’t know exactly what you’ll say yet – you are well on your way.
Stage 2 – Do a Quick Keyword Research
However, a topic is just the start.
Even if you already knew what you wanted to say about your topic, we aren’t here to create “just” content. “Just” content is an excellent way to waste time. We are here to create optimized content, and that’s a whole ‘nother story.
For that, you need good keywords.
If you don’t know what keywords are, a quick search on our knowledge database should get you up to speed. This guide isn’t for that. This guide is about giving you practical advice on how to pump out awesome content.
The folks at Ahrefs have a great video on how to do keyword research, even if you don’t have a paid tool like theirs. Here are the CliffsNotes:
- Install the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension, which lets you see search volumes in most search engines.
- Go to Keyword Shitter and generate a list (10 – 15 should do) of keywords related to your topic. Do a quick Google search for your topic and take a few high-volume related keywords from Keywords Everywhere’s list.
- Type in your topic in Google Correlate and get a sense of related sub-topics. These subtopics can be use as keywords sometimes, as well as other uses (more on this later.)
Now, each time you have a topic, go to Keyword Shitter and Google, generate a list of keywords. Take the one that more closely relates to your topic – and has the larger volume of searches – and use it as your main keyword. Select a couple more with the following biggest volumes and maybe use them as secondary keywords.
Are there better ways to get keywords? Definitively. Is this way good enough to get your blog content strategy going? Absolutely.
Once you have a topic and a handful of good keywords, move on to Stage 3.
Stage 3 – Titles & Outlines
Armed with your topic and keywords, it’s time to start shaping up that new blog piece. First order of business? Generate a great title for your post.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Your titles have to contain your main keyword.
- They should be kept under 70 characters, give or take.
- They should clearly indicate the content of your piece and its value.
Brainstorm a few titles for your piece based around the keywords you researched. Spend at least a few minutes doing this. Finding a title will help you flesh out the ideas you’ll want to talk about, and the angle you’ll want to take.
Aim to create between 5 and 10 title variations before settling on one, and make sure the one you stick with scores at least a 60 in CoSchedule’s headline analyzer. This will help make sure you have an optimized, balanced title.
Having brainstormed a bit for your title, that blog post idea should be clearer in your head. But it’s time to give it form.
If you are knowledgeable about the topic and have jotted down the points you want to cover, create a list you can use as subtitles for each section (extra points if you include keywords here, but don’t force it.) Add an intro, a conclusion, and you’ll have an outline that should look like this:
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point X
If you have a title but are still unsure how to structure your blog post, you can choose among the most popular blog types for the one that matches your topic best:
- News Post: Take a piece of news directly related to your topic and write your point of view on the matter.
- Instructional post:Write a post describing or explaining a process your audience would find useful or interesting. How-tos and guides fall in this category.
- Lists Post: Putting together a list that provides value to a reader is always a good idea. Regardless of your topic, you’ll most likely be able to create a list related to it. Write a bit about each item on your list, and you’ll have your post.
- Reviews: Simple, give your take on a product or service closely related to your line of work. Informed opinions and perspectives are always appreciated online.
Settle on a type of post, and write an outline about the points you want to touch upon. If it’s a news blog, you can start with an intro covering the news, sharing your opinions and perspectives as individual points, and wrap up with a conclusion. If you go for a list, figure out what it is you are listing, and make each entry a point of your outline.
Creating a clean, detailed outline is the lynchpin of your blog’s blueprint!
It’s your outline that will keep you from rambling on one point and neglect others. It’s your outline that will prevent you from stopping halfway through, unsure of what to write next. It’s your outline that will help you flesh out your content, even before you write the first word.
Once you have it, get writing.
Stage 4 – Write!
It’s really as simple as that… Until it isn’t.
Since you are working on a topic you know about, you should be covered as far as content goes. Don’t worry if you have terrible grammar or if it doesn’t sound good. We’ll fix that later.
For now, focus on fleshing out and expanding each of your outline’s points in a consistent way. Try to keep each point balanced, that is, avoid writing 500 words on a single point and wrapping up the other three in 100.
The more you do it, the more you’ll realize that as long as you keep to topics you know about, writing is actually rather simple.
How long should your post be? Well, how long can you make it?
If you have never written before, 500 words should be a nice place to start while setting your goal to reach 1000 words in the future. The ideal length for an optimized, well-rounded blog post sits around the 1300 and 1500 words mark.
Stage 5 – Turn that Text into a Post
By now, you have that text file you wrote sitting on your computer. Pat yourself on the back and go back to work.
That text file isn’t a blog post yet, but it’s the raw material you’ll hammer into a sharp tool to drive more traffic to your site. How do you turn one into the other? Optimization. The more you write, the more you’ll start doing these things automatically. But for now, it’s a good idea to use a checklist to help you get that text into a publishing state.
Remove These Words:
It doesn’t matter how good or bad a writer you are; there are a bunch of words we often use in spoken language that don´t do as well in written form. The first thing to do to optimize your piece is to find these and scratch them out.
You’ll notice that most of the time, the idea you are trying to convey works even without them. Other times you’ll have to find a different way of writing what you meant. Either way, try and get rid of as many of these as you can:
In order to, Stuff, Really, Just, That, Literally, and So.
This is by no means a complete list, however, as there are plenty other often-used words that tend to get in the way.
Do keep in mind that sometimes, even these do serve a purpose in your piece (you can even find some here). But that’s precisely the thing; you need to be aware of them and have a good reason for their presence.
If a sentence works without them, and you can’t think of a reason for them being there, delete or rewrite.
Remember those keywords you researched? Time to use them.
Grab your main keyword and check how many times it appears on your text. A good rule of thumb is to have it once for every 200 words or so. If you see that your keywords pop up less often than that, find places where you can naturally add them without them feeling forced. If you think you over did it, change or delete some instances to bring it down a notch. Yes, there is such a thing as too many keywords. We SEOs actually have a name for it, it’s called keyword stuffing, and it’s a big no-no.
Once that’s taken care of, do another pass and try to include one or two instances of your secondary keywords if you haven’t already.
Try adding a couple of links somewhere in your piece directly related to your topic. However, not any link will do!
First, find things to link to that you feel will add value to the piece, and could be of interest to the reader if they clicked.
Second, make sure they link to reputable sites. Think Forbes, HuffPost, and SEMrush, and you’ll get the picture.
Grammarly & Hemingway
By this point, you have a piece of text that has all the basic SEO elements to perform well for algorithms, that’s great. The problem, though, is that it most likely still reads like crap. Riddled with grammar errors, poor word choices, etc.
Fortunately for you, we are in the 21st century now, and those problems are easily fixed with free software.
Word’s grammar tool can only take you so far, so take your text file and upload it to Grammarly. This awesome tool will help you get rid of every spelling mistake and most major syntax errors in your piece. It will even suggest different wording and tips to improve your style. And yes, it does all of that for free.
If you are on the other end of the spectrum, and you tend to use too many big words and complicated sentences, then Hemmingway App is the one for you. Hemingway is a pretty straightforward text editor that tells you when sentences are too difficult to read and suggests fixes to make them simpler.
Run your blogpost by these tools, and you’ll have a pretty robust piece from both, the SEO and quality standpoint.
Time to upload, right? Wrong.
Stage 6 – Find Media
Even the most avid reader will get discouraged by massive walls of text, which is why you should always include other types of media on your post to truly call it optimized.
First thing to take care of? Find images that help illustrate your points and break the block of text into more digestible chunks. Now, contrary to what many might think, you shouldn’t take whatever picture Google Images pulls up for your query. Not without properly attributing and linking back to the original source, at least.
All three sites offer free stock photos that you can add to your post without a problem. Just type your topic or keywords and go to town, but don’t overdo it. Most of the time, three or four pictures should be enough to break down your piece nicely (less if you have a 500-ish word post.)
Then there’s video.
Do a quick YouTube search for your topic or keywords and see if there’s a relevant vid you’d like to include on your piece. Remember, never force these things. If you find something that will add value to the reader, by all means, copy that link and embed it on your post with proper attribution to the author’s channel.
By now, you probably think we are done. Almost, but not quite.
Stage 7 – Optimization, Optimization, Optimization
Yes, you could upload the piece as is. And in all honesty, it would probably make for a fairly decent blogpost. But that would be settling for mediocrity, and we don’t do that here at OTT.
There are a handful of simple, yet critical optimization tasks you should take care of before uploading that brand-new blog. Tasks that can have a significant impact on your ultimate goal: driving more eyes to your online content.
Write a Suitable Meta Description
“Meta Description” is the fancy name for that short snippet Google shows on their result pages about a page’s content, and they can be the difference between someone ignoring or clicking your piece.
Instead of giving you the whole spiel on meta tags, let’s stick to the practical, useful intel:
- Include your main keyword.
- Make it interesting and attention-grabbing.
- Keep them under 65 characters, including spaces.
- Provide an honest description of your blog piece.
- Avoid duplicating the page’s title.
Optimize Your Post’s URL
Most web editor platforms will automatically generate a URL based around your post’s title, and they often suck. They are either too long, unnecessarily cryptic, or leave out important/useful information.
Here are a few general tips to keep in mind when optimizing your post’s URL:
- Make it clear and descriptive.
- Make it short.
- Try to include your main keyword in a meaningful way (Don’t force it.)
Optimize Your Image’s Alt-text
Alt-text optimization is something most people leave out when they really shouldn’t. Not only is it a good way to further optimize your content for search algorithms, but it also helps your content’s accessibility.
And just in case you don’t know, most editors will let you change the metadata of your images by simply right-clicking on them and selecting the appropriate submenu.
Here are a few simple tweaks you should apply to your images:
- Rename the file to include your main keyword.
- Keep alt text short.
- Describe the image content as accurately as possible.
- Don’t include phrases like “image of” or “picture of.”
Now, for all intents and purposes, you have a truly optimized blog post in your hands, and you can go right ahead and hit publish. Congratulations.
Now, do it again.
Keep doing it on a regular basis (twice a week should be well enough to start), and you should start noticing the effects reflected on your metrics before long.
Here at OTT, we don’t believe in “overkill.” Going the extra mile usually reflects very clearly on the bottom line. So, if you can stomach it, here goes a couple more tips and tricks that will help streamline your content generation setup.
Keep a Notepad for Topic Ideas
Download a note app on your cellphone and create a file to write down topic ideas whenever they pop-up. Things related to your content, brand, or products that you think would make for a great blog post.
Doing so for a couple of weeks can chop down your writing prep time in a huge way. You won’t have to sit and stare into a blank monitor every time you have to write a new piece. Instead, just refer back to your growing list of topics and get going from there.
Extra points if you can do some keyword research in advanced on your free time.
Promote Your Piece
Yes, you can hit publish, sit back, and passively wait for that organic traffic to start rolling in. But why settle when you have so many avenues to promote your piece and get the ball rolling?
Drop a few tweets with hashtags relevant to your topic and include a link to your piece. Find a relevant subreddit and promote it there. Do the same for Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform you manage for your online presence.
Do it enough, and you’ll accelerate the whole thing to critical speed.
Start Guest Blogging… Eventually.
Once you feel confident enough on your content creation process, it might be a good idea to reach out to sites that cover the same topics you do and offer a guest piece. Not only is this a great way to bring more eyes to your content, but an amazing optimization tool if you manage to generate links back to your blog.
Well managed and properly updated, a blog can be a great source of organic traffic, but you need to do the work. A big part of that work is in the prep and in making sure you have a clear blueprint to follow to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Now you can do what most people probably will: do nothing with the information you just read and move on.
You can take what you learned here, start applying it, and begin reaping the benefits like the few others who are smart enough and committed enough to do the thing.
The choice is yours.