Smarter Content, Better Search Rankings: A Quick Guide
Your blog can be a key part of your overall SEO strategy. But with the ever-changing nature of SEO it can be hard to keep up with which strategies and which elements of a blog post you should focus on for the greatest return in visitors and search rankings. As of this spring, we now know that links, content and RankBrain are the top three ranking signals used by Google. Earlier this year, Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist, Andrey Lipattsev, was asked about the first two signals (besides RankBrain) in a WebPromo Q&A. He is quoted in a transcript of the Q&A, published by Search Engine Watch, as saying:
“Yes; I can tell you what they are. It’s content, and links pointing to your site.”
Given this knowledge and new developments in what kind of content Google looks for, here are a few things you need to ensure you understand and can implement for your blog posts to improve search ranking.
The Right Keywords
Eventually we’ll get to a point where calling out keyword stuffing isn’t necessary. But unfortunately, some still use this tactic to try to improve their content’s chances on Google. Trying to outsmart Google and sneak your content higher up in search engine results by keyword stuffing won’t help you out a lot in the long run.
It’s better to take a holistic approach to creating and including keywords and keyword phrases these days. Use multiple keywords, synonyms and phrases related to the area you’re talking about and intersperse them into well-written, informative, in-depth pieces of content that are useful in their own right.
To find more keywords in your area, there are a few methods you can try. Neil Patel suggests using Wikipedia or Thesaurus.com to search for related terms and words on a specific topic. The same article, published in Search Engine Journal, recommends checking out the suggestions at the bottom of a Google SERP for more keywords. (Bonus tip: You might get more story ideas here, too!)
You can also use Soovle to suggest keywords from a variety of different search sources, including Google, Bing, Answers.com and Wikipedia. These more nuanced keywords will help you to improve search ranking for your blog posts.
The Right Content
You know that you need to deliver quality content writing that’s relevant to what people are searching for, but what does that mean? It means that you’re prioritizing the needs and experience of your readers and not just writing solely for search engines.
When you write a piece of content, ask yourself:
- Does this provide answers for the reader or leave them with more questions than they started with?
- Am I proud of what I’ve written?
- Is this piece enjoyable to read?
- If I were an audience member, would I share this blog post? Would I even return to the site?
If you can’t say yes to all of these questions, you might need to go back to the drawing board with your content.
The Right Links
Google is pretty clear that you should avoid any kind of sneaky behavior regarding links. That said, external links for your website (links from other people who mention your website or a page on your website in some way) can signal the popularity of a certain page or entity.
There are several things you can do that may improve the amount and quality of your links. This article from Search Engine Land suggests several strategies, including the following:
- Create content that is “shareable” and encourage people to use it on their own sites with a link back to yours
- Identify what sites are linking to your competitors, determine which of those sites are reputable and relevant to you, and reach out to them for links
- Produce guest blog posts for other blogs or industry news sites with links back to your site
There are a lot of technical things you can and should do to optimize your site and blog for Google. This checklist from Neil Patel for Search Engine Journal is a good place to start. But don’t get so caught up in the technical side that you forget about quality content writing and who you’re writing for: people. Real people who have questions that need answering and who are turning to you for help.
Google’s own Webmaster Guidelines explain this perfectly:
“Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
When you can look at your blog and confidently answer these questions, you are on the right track to creating blog posts that rank highly in search engine results and are also a valuable resource for your target audience.