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Episode 068: How to Optimize Blog Posts for SEO to Improve Reach

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Is blogging already part of your workflow and marketing strategy? If so, great!

As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of Priority Pursuit, blogging is a great way to establish yourself as an authority in your industry, attract customers, and lead prospects through your sales funnel. Blogging also gives you content to share on social media on the regular, is a great way to serve your clients, and is an effective way to save time when you can answer repeat client questions by simply sharing a blog post with them rather than drafting a long email.

But, here’s the thing. While blogging comes with many benefits, unless you’re taking the time to optimize your blog posts for search engines, you are drastically limiting your blogs’ reach.

I mean, think about it, while you might be sharing your blog posts via social media and email, unless your blog posts can be found on Google (or you run ads to them, which is a conversation for another day), your blogs will only ever be found by the people who are already part of your audience, meaning your blog posts will only be seen by your current social media followers, email list subscribers, and those who already know your website exists and happen to peruse your blog while being on your site.

However, when you optimize your blog posts for search engines, you can help your blog posts get in front of prospective customers who are actively searching for your content—and likely your products or services.

I’ve shared on the show before that my couples regularly stumble across my blog posts via Google, and I often have couples book me because of these blog posts. As a result, I know the power of optimizing blog posts for SEO firsthand, and in this episode of Priority Pursuit, we’re breaking down exactly how to optimize blog posts for SEO so you can get your blogs—whether they be educational posts or blogs that showcase your work—in front of your ideal customers via Google.

1. Optimize your blog posts for strategic long-tail keywords.

First, before you even begin writing copy for a blog post, it’s important to do keyword research so that you can include your keyword in the following elements of your blog post as your write it:

  • Title
  • Headings (not all)
  • Copy (the paragraph text)
  • SEO title
  • Meta description
  • Slug
  • Image titles
  • Alt text

Now, for the sake of time, we aren’t going to get into how to identify and use keywords in this episode, but we have certainly covered this process in the past.

If you aren’t familiar with how to identify and use strategic long-tail keywords on your web pages and blog posts, be sure to check out “Episode 009: How to Identify & Use Strategic Keywords to Improve Your SEO.” Or, if you’re a photographer and you’d like some photographer-specific keyword training, tune into “Episode 055: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients as a Photographer” and download “A Guide for Photographers: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients”!

Photographers, want help understanding how to identify & use strategic keywords? Download “A Guide for Photographers: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients”!

2. Write quality content that serves your ideal client well.

  • While I highly recommend doing keyword research before you start developing your content, arguably the most effective thing you can do to make Google want to rank your blog posts well in search results is to provide great content.

Now, if you aren’t a natural writer, I know this can sound overwhelming, but here’s all you need to do:

Provide valuable information.

First, provide valuable information that your ideal customer finds helpful. For example, when you’re blogging an educational blog post—such as a blog post that explains how to do something or gives tips on a specific topic—make sure you’re giving readers information that answers the question or addresses the problem at hand.

When you’re blogging your work, you also want to make sure that you’re providing information that’s helpful to your ideal client. For example, when I blog weddings, I always include information about the venue and a general order of events and photos taken throughout the day, because this is information that helps potential VRP couples imagine what their own wedding day could be like at the particular venue.

On that note, if you’d like help developing a template for blogging your work or to get the exact template I use for blogging my work, be sure to check out “Episode 066: What to Write About When Blogging Your Work as a Creative Entrepreneur (AKA a Template for Blogging a Wedding or Session as a Photographer).”

Your blog posts don’t necessarily have to be literary works of art. You simply want to make sure your blog serves your ideal customer well.

Make sure your copy is easy to read.

In addition to making sure you provide valuable information, you also want to make sure your blog posts are well written and easy to read.

Again, your blog posts don’t have to be worthy of a Pulitzer. However, you do want to make sure your blog posts are easy to follow and understand and are free of typos and poor grammar.

Errors can, after all, bother your readers and cause them to stop reading. This is problematic, because (1) your blog post isn’t able to do its job of helping potential clients see you as a trusted authority in your industry, and (2) if Google notices that people are leaving your blog posts quickly without bothering to read or scroll very far, Google will have reason to believe your blog post is poor quality, which will negatively affect its search engine ranking.

Use headings.

To make your content easy to consume—which Google certainly wants you to do and favors so Google can serve its users well by helping them find the content they’re looking for quickly—something else you can do to optimize your blog posts for SEO is to utilize headings.

While I hate to say this, but we all know it’s true, very few people are going to read every single word of our blog posts. Instead, most are going to skim headings to garner the main points and/or find the information that they need.

Because people like headings and because headings make content easier to read and navigate, Google wants you to use headings in your blog posts to serve readers well. So, as you’re writing blogs, simply divide your content with headings that make sense and help readers.

Side note: On both web pages and blog posts, you only want to use H1 headings for the title of the page. For blog posts, chances are, your web builder will automatically make the title an H1 heading. You’ll then need to make headings in the body of your blog post H2, H3, H4, etc.

How long should a blog post be?

At this point, I’m sure you get it. I mean, you need to write content that serves your audience well and make sure that content is easy to read. But, how long should your blog post be?

A common rule of thumb is that every web page and blog post on your website should have at least 300 words. At one point, this was because Google only truly recognized and crawled web pages with at least 300 words. However, that is no longer the case.

That said, it’s nearly impossible to provide helpful, quality content in 300 words or less. And, because Google wants to provide its users with the most helpful and relevant content as possible, you’ll likely need to write well over 300 words per blog post.

In fact, in 2021, Hubspot found that blog posts with an average of 2,330 words tend to rank the highest in Google search results.

Now, don’t let this intimidate you. This isn’t to say that blog posts with fewer words can’t rank well. But, this does show us that it isn’t enough to do the bare minimum, and to get the most out of a blog post, you want to take the time to write as much copy as needed to get your point across.

3. Include both internal & external links.

Something else you can do to optimize your blog posts for search engines is to include both internal and external links.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, internal links are simply links that link to other pages of your website. For example, if you’re blogging about a wedding you photographed, there are likely organic ways to link to your wedding photography page.

For example, at the end of most wedding blog posts, I’ll thank the couple for allowing me to be their wedding photographer, and I’ll link the words “wedding photographer” to my wedding photography page. Or, if I’m writing a blog post that coincides with another blog post, I’ll link to the relevant post.

External links, on the other hand, are links that link to websites and content outside of your own. For example, when I blog weddings, I’m always sure to link to venues’ websites. Or, if I’m writing a blog post that coincides with a podcast episode, I cite my sources by linking to the sources.

Google prefers both web pages and blog posts with internal and external links because these links often help Google users find more information that’s valuable to them. And, when you link to credible sources, your website gains authority, because it—like a well-done research paper or study—is supported by reliable sources.

4. Include visuals & optimize them through titles & alt text.

So far, we’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing ways you can optimize the copy of your blog posts, but if you want to optimize blog posts for SEO, you also need to take the time to optimize your visuals through titles and alt text.

Now, if you’re going to include a video in a blog post, I highly recommend uploading the video to YouTube, optimizing it for search engines through YouTube’s process, and then embedding the video into your blog post so that it’s hosted on YouTube—rather than your website—and doesn’t slow your website down.

With images, however, you will want to upload these directly to your website and add both strategic image titles and alt text.

How should you title your images in your blog posts for SEO?

First, rather than uploading images to your blog posts with whatever title your camera assigns to them or whatever title you gave the image for another purpose (e.g. the way you titled the image to deliver to a client if you’re a photographer), you want to make sure your images are titled in a way that is relevant to the image and includes your long-tail keyword if applicable.

For example, if I were writing a blog post about engagement photos at Coxhall Gardens and my long-tail keyword was “Coxhall Gardens engagement photos,” I’d title images as “coxhall-gardens-engagement-photos-1,” “coxhall-gardens-engagement-photos-2,” “coxhall-gardens-engagement-photos-3,” etc.

In this example, all of the images are of engagement photos at Coxhall Gardens. As a result, using the same title with a simple number change works well. However, if you hapened to write a blog post with a variety of images where your long-tail keyword isn’t specific to each image, you’ll want to change things up and give images titles that are descriptive and specific to them and include your long-tail keyword if applicable.

What is alt text, & why does it matter for SEO?

After you’ve appropriately titled and added your images to your website, you then need to make sure that you’re adding alt text or alternative text to these photos.

Alt text is simply a words-based description of the image. Alt text is valuable because it allows those who are visually impaired to hear a description of the image as they explore your website, and alt text gives Google a better understanding of your image. (Side note: Alt text can help your images be found in Google Images. If you’re a photographer, this is particularly valuable!)

Chances are, depending on your web builder, you can easily add alt text to your images by clicking the web builder’s version of an edit button. For instance, in WordPress, you can easily add alt text in the “Media” section of your website or by simply clicking the pencil-looking button that appears on an image when you hover over a photo on the backend of a blog post.

Then, when you write alt text, you simply want to describe the image and, when applicable, include your long-tail keyword. For example, if I’m writing a blog post about a recent wedding and one of the photos I include in the blog is of the couple at the altar during their ceremony, my alt text might be, “Bride and groom exchanging vows during wedding ceremony at JPS Events in downtown Indianapolis.” Again, I’m simply describing the image.

Photographers, if optimizing images for SEO is still confusing to you, don’t worry! We actually dive a lot deeper into both image titles and alt text in “A Guide for Photographers: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients,” which you can download and refer to the screenshots and examples provided in the guide. If you aren’t a photographer, please feel free to check out this guide, as well. You’ll just have to replace some of the photography jargon with words more related to your own industry, but the examples should still be helpful.

5. Be sure to give your blog post an SEO title, slug, & meta description.

In addition to creating image titles and alt text, you’re also going to want to be sure to give your blog post an SEO title, slug, and meta description that are specific to your blog post, entice Google users to click on your blog post, and include your long-tail keyword.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t panic! Whether you realize it or not, if you’ve ever Googled anything at all, you’ve seen these items before.

What is an SEO title & how do you write an SEO title for blog posts?

First, your SEO title is the blue text that appears as the title of a Google search results listing. Regardless of your web builder, there will be somewhere to enter your SEO title. If you have a WordPress blog, you’ll do this through the Yoast SEO plugin, which may already be on your website or you may need to install. But, rather than letting your website automatically add an SEO title for you, I recommend manually adding an SEO title so you can make your title more strategic.

You simply want your SEO title to:

  • Include 60 characters or fewer (ideally) so that Google doesn’t cut off your text in search result listings
  • Entice people to click on your blog post by using the SEO title to help people clearly see what your blog is about
  • Include your long-tail keyword

For blog posts, I recommend making your SEO title “Your Long-tail Keyword | Your Business Name.” For example, when I blogged an engagement session a couple weeks ago, my SEO title was “Downtown Indianapolis Canal Walk Engagement Photos | Victoria Rayburn Photography.”

Yes, this is longer than 60 characters. But, I made sure that the important part—the part that shares where this blog post was photographed—came first so that Google users looking for this  content can easily see what they’ll find (engagement photos on the Indianapolis Canal) if they click on the link.

What is a slug & how do you choose your slug for blog posts?

In order to optimize your blog posts for SEO, you also need to give your blog posts strategic slugs. A slug is the portion of a URL that follows a domain. In other words, a slug is the portion of the URL that follows the slash.

Your slug should:

  • Include your long-tail keyword divided by hyphens
  • Omit “stop words” (unnecessary words like a, an, the, etc.)
  • Indicate what the page is about

So, for example, in the blog post featuring engagement photos on the Indianapolis Canal like I mentioned before, my slug was “downtown-indianapolis-canal-walk-engagement-photos.”

What is a meta description, & how do you write a meta description for blog posts?

In addition to giving your blog posts strategic SEO titles and slugs, you also need to give your blog posts meta descriptions. A meta description is the description that appears under a Google listing that is intended to help Google users further understand what a web page or blog post is about before clicking on it.

When you blog, you want to give your blog posts meta descriptions that:

  • Include your long-tail keyword
  • Are between 155 and 160 characters so that you give Google users enough information without including so much text that Google cuts of your meta description
  • Help Google users determine if your blog post is helpful to them
  • Entice people to click on your blog post

So, for example, if we go back to the Canal engagement session I mentioned before, my meta description was “Adam Rude and Maria Bachman celebrated their engagement with downtown Indianapolis Canal Walk engagement photos. See their photos!”

This description both tells Google users what they’ll find if they click on the link and encourages them to click.

Still confused about SEO titles, slugs, & meta descriptions?

I feel like a broken record at this point, but if you have more questions about SEO titles, meta descriptions, and slugs, I want to encourage you to tune into “Episode 009: How to Identify & Use Strategic Keywords to Improve Your SEO.” Or, if you’re a photographer and you’d like some photographer-specific keyword training, tune into “Episode 055: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients as a Photographer” and download “A Guide for Photographers: How to Identify Keywords for SEO that Will Help You Book More Clients.”

These resources dive further into these SEO elements and explain exactly how and why to include your long-tail keyword in them so you can make sure your blog posts are optimized for SEO.

6. Organize your blog posts with categories & tags.

Another great way to optimize blog posts for SEO is to use categories and tags.

Categories and tags are simply ways to group and organize your blog posts and other content on your website. If you have a WordPress blog, you should be able to see the option to add categories and tags in the right-hand column on the backend of any blog post.

While categories and tags can both be used to organize blog posts, the biggest differences between categories and tags is the fact that categories should be used for more broad or general labels, while tags should be used for more specific labels.

For example, the categories for my blog include:

  • Weddings
  • Wedding Planning Tips
  • Engagements
  • For Photographers
  • Personal

And, the categories for the podcast blog include:

  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Relationships
  • SEO

These are broad topics that my website visitors can easily see and click on from my blog and further explore if they wish.

Tags, on the other hand, are more specific and allow you to group blogs together in a more niche way. For example, I regularly take engagement photos at Purdue University. So, when I blog engagement photos at Purdue, I’m sure to always add the tag “Engagement Photos at Purdue University.” This way, when someone clicks on the tag, which can be seen at the top of any corresponding blog post on my website, website visitors can click and see other shoots that were also photographed at Purdue.

And, if you Google “engagement photos at Purdue,” one of the first listings is a link to a page that features all of my Purdue engagement photos, because using the same tag results in my website creating a full page within my blog that lists all Purdue engagement sessions automatically, which you can see here.

Side note: I regularly book clients as a result of the fact that this tag helps all of my Purdue engagement blog posts rank well, because Purdue alumni often search for “Purdue engagement photos” to get inspiration for their own engagement sessions at their alma mater.  

When you add tags to your blog post, you don’t want to keyword stuff; however, you do want to add keywords that are relevant as tags and use tags to group like content together so that both your website visitors and Google users are more likely to find all of your content on a specific topic.

Essentially, organizing your content with both categories and tags can both improve your website users’ experience while on your site and improve the rankings of many of your blog posts. As a result, categories and especially tags, are an excellent way to improve your SEO.

7. Make sure your blog posts load quickly.

As Google ranks both websites and blog posts, the speed of your website is very important, because Google users—or, we as people—get frustrated and tend to exit a website if it takes too much time to load.

For the sake of your SEO and your website visitors’ experience, your website needs to load as quickly as possible. Ideally, every page and blog post on your website should load in less than two seconds. But, according to Google, the faster your website loads, the better.

If you’ve never checked the speed of your website, you can use Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and countless online tools to find out how quickly your website is loading. And, while I certainly recommend talking to your web developer or your web builder company (such as ShowIt) to discuss things you can do to improve the speed of your entire website, when it comes to blogging, there are a few things you should do every time you blog to help ensure the success and speed of your blog posts.

First, if you’re including images, make sure you optimize your images and upload them at appropriate sizes. For blog posts, WordPress recommends making images 1200×630 pixels with a DPI of 72. At this size, images will still appear crisp, but they will be small enough to load quickly.

While you can manually resize images, to make this process faster—especially if you have a lot of images to resize and collage together like I do as a wedding photographer—you can use tools like BlogStomp, Storytailor, or Narrative.

Also, if you’re including a video or audio recording in a blog post, you’ll want to embed the media in the blog post but host the media elsewhere so that your website’s load time isn’t bogged down by having to host a full video or audio clip. For example, if you want to include a video in a blog post, upload it to YouTube first—which Google loves by the way since YouTube is Google owned—and embed the video in your blog post. This way, your website visitors can see the video, but your load time won’t be affected.

Or, if you have an audio clip to record, use some kind of audio-hosting software. For example, every Priority Pursuit episode has a corresponding blog post, and we use Libsyn—a podcast hosting and distribution platform—to host the audio of each episode and distribute it to podcast platforms. Libsyn also gives us code so we can easily embed the audio from each episode into a blog post without slowing down my website.

Again, there are a lot of moving parts to having a website that loads quickly, and I highly recommend looking into the overall load times of your website and communicating with your web designer or web company if you’re having issues. But, making sure you are properly sizing photos and embedding media into your blogs will help with both the speed of your blog posts and your website as a whole, which will only help your SEO.

8. Include a call to action.

Last but not least, to optimize your blog posts for search engines, include a call to action that (1) encourages your blog readers to do whatever it is you want them to do and (2) results in them visiting other pages of your website.

To measure the success of any web page or blog post, Google looks at both bounce and exit rates. Essentially, Google’s thought is that if your content is valuable, Google users will further explore your website by clicking and engaging with other content.

With this in mind, you want to encourage your blog readers to click elsewhere. For example, in all Priority Pursuit blog posts, we include text CTAs throughout blog posts that link to other relevant content and resources on our site, and at the end of each blog post, we include a graphic CTA that leads to a guide or a download. And, I do the same thing in all wedding posts.

Essentially, to improve your SEO, tell your readers what you want them to do and give them easy ways and great content that make them want to further explore your website so that (1) Google can see that your website visitors find your content helpful and (2) you can continue to take your website visitors through your sales funnel.

Your time is valuable. If you’re going to blog, optimize blog posts for SEO.

This podcast episode was a deep dive into everything you need to do to optimize blog posts for SEO, and I know this episode was on the longer side. But, I can almost promise you that if you’re already blogging, once the items we discussed are part of your blogging workflow, each blog post is only going to take you a few additional minutes. But, when you take the time to complete these steps, every blog post you create will have the power to reach more people.

Blogging takes time, and your time is valuable, my friend. As a result, if you’re going to make blogging part of your marketing and SEO strategy—which I highly recommend that you do—please, please make the most of your time by optimizing your blog posts for SEO.

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Learn the EXACT marketing strategy we use to help small businesses grow: The Flywheel Marketing Method.

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As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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