Every SEO blog post intro needs to include the key phrase in the first sentence and the title.
Okay, it doesn’t but it helps with SEO.
By making it obvious to Google (and your reader) what the post is about.
Google cares about content “above the fold” — so before you scroll.
I included my keyphrase “SEO blog post” in my first sentence above.
Now it’s time for a hook. Did you know that 76% of blog posts don’t get read past the first paragraph because there is no hook?
That was my weak attempt at a hook. But, hopefully, you’re a little intrigued.
In this post, we’ll introduce you to three concepts that make blog posts great.
- What should you include in your blog post?
- Optimising your blog post
- Promoting your blog post
1. What should you include in your blog post?
The text above is an H2 subheading. Use these as section breakers, titles, introducers for new sections. But what to include?
If you really want to dominate traffic from Google, the best way to structure your blog post is to answer questions real people ask Google.
How do you find these?
Go to Google!
Open an incognito browser and type in google.com
Search for the key phrase or query that you’re writing about.
Let’s analyse what we find when type in our search query.
Analysing Google results
Before we analyse them, notice I used an H3 heading above. This is to make it clear we are moving into a subsection of the What should you include in your blog post? Section.
Back to the analysis…
For this example, I entered “What to include in a blog post”.
The first result we have is an ad. Ignore this. Ads will rank top and we can’t beat these with organic content. You could spend money on trying to beat Grammarly in this case — but the budget will be 💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰.
Analysing the featured snippet
Next, we have a “featured snippet”. This is literally a snippet of information extracted directly from the blog post that Google deems the best for this search query. So they featured it.
Hence the name featured snippet.
Take note of the structure. In this case, Forbes used a list of 1–8. And Google liked it.
Does that mean you should use a list of 1–8? No.
You could make a list of 1–10 in an attempt to be bigger and better. For some queries, that works.
Behind this 1–8 list is a paragraph of what each does. So, bear in mind that it’s not literally writing a list of 8 things.
If you scroll back up to the first subheading in this post, you’ll see I used a #1 at the beginning. As this post moves on, you’ll see more numbers as we introduce sections. Maybe one day they’ll make the featured snippet.
Analysing the first result on Google
Next up, we have our first organic result and some questions that people also ask when they are searching for our particular query.
Hence this section is called “People Also Ask”.
Here, you will want to read what made the first position on Google. Depending on your time, resource — and most of all — desire, dissect this post.
If a client pays me to get them to number one on Google, I’ll spend at least an hour pulling apart what is terrible, good, and great about it.
Now, we’re not going to outright copy it. Just because it made the first result on Google doesn’t mean it’s the best. It means Google thought it was the best for this particular query.
But, do note down easy wins where you can write something better — or if you have a better image you could insert. These should all make your post.
Analysing People also ask queries
With the questions in the “People also ask” section, copy and paste these into your blog outline.
You should aim to answer these queries in your blog post.
To make it even more obvious to Google, you can include these questions as headings in your blog post.
Once you’ve found and added the Google queries and questions you’re going to add, put them in a sensible order.
For example, it doesn’t make sense to start your blog post with “How to end a blog post” if your next section is “How to start a blog post”.
If you come across any queries that don’t quite make sense, don’t include them as-is.
You should never compromise the quality of your content by targeting poor search terms. Google is smart enough to work out that your correct spelling should rank when someone spells something incorrectly.
Now you’ve got a few queries associated with your blog post, you have gaps to fill in.
In the video example, I had six queries to answer.
I answered each one comprehensively. To make this comprehensive, I also added no-copy items like images, videos, and even embedded some nice tweets. These all help the reader understand what you are explaining, and come with some added SEO benefits (more on those later).
If you put in the time to make your version the best version available online, over time you will be rewarded by ranking high on Google.
Got something to include that doesn’t fall into one of these categories? Make another section, add it as a sub-section, or use your judgment and find the most appropriate place for it.
A lot of SEO blog posts lose their reader’s attention because the flow has been ignored in favour of keywords.
Pro tip: Don’t do that!
2. Optimising your blog post
A few of the items that are about to appear in this section are things you can include before you get to the optimisation stage.
For example, we’ll walk through outreach in a second. Outreach for expert quotes serves a purpose for word count, content promotion, and credibility. Actually, let’s do outreach right now.
2a – Outreach for expert quotes
A blog post doesn’t have to have expert quotes – but the best-optimised ones do.
In fact, as I was writing this blog post, I did some outreach. Let’s walk through some options for getting high-quality outreach.
Submit a query on Help a Reporter Out
Originally started for journalists to find sources, Help a Reporter Out has quickly become a content marketer’s go-to resource when you can’t find someone in your own network.
All you need to get started it to sign up to HARO (that’s the pet name us marketers have given it), decide what you first “query” is going to be, and wait for the responses to roll in.
There is a caveat here around getting high-quality responses. And the caveat is important because there are tons of backlink hunters on HARO.
You want to make sure your HARO query is as specific as possible to drive the best responses. If you can filter out 50% of people who aren’t genuine experts with a carefully constructed query, you save yourself from working through poor-quality responses.
When people do respond, you’ll be notified by email. If you choose to include a response, best practice is to link to the source who helped you out.
Appeal for experts on social media
Social media is great for outreach because you are almost unlimited in reach. Sure, you have to do some things right to get in front of the right people. But, for the most part, your trusted experts will already be in your network. They might need a small nudge.
Start by crafting your tweet or LinkedIn post. Ask a specific question to get the kind of response you need. For example, if you’re looking for a % to include, make sure you include this. Don’t ask “can anyone help with this” but do ask “does anyone have a stat highlighting XYZ?”
Next, there are a bunch of social media best practices to follow. Getting the right number of hashtags and tagging the right people is down to what you’ve found works best for you. And if you haven’t documented this, use your next outreach mission to start a test.
Or, if you know your followers are experts in this field, you might try simply asking them. As I was writing the section above, I asked why expert quotes are important.
Tina Donati, Content Marketing Lead at Alloy Automation, responded to my tweet with this awesome explanation:
“It helps shape a story in an article that may typically be very tech-forward. Adding people = adding characters that readers can relate to. Also, yes for credibility. Readers don’t care what a business has to say—they care about what actual people have to say.”
Direct outreach to warm connections
If you’re lucky enough to have an established presence in an industry, you’ll have a list of dependable contacts you can reach out to.
Pro tip: Make this a physical list! Start an influencer/expert tracker with each person’s email, social media links, and articles you’ve asked them to provide a quote for.
You might have these people on Slack or feel comfortable emailing them directly. Sometimes you’ll find an expert so good and so on the ball, you can get quotes at the click of a button.
If your relationship isn’t quite as awesome as mine with Hiba, try out an email template to drive 1) a response every time and 2) a high-quality response tailored to what you want the expert to say.
Make sure you include:
- A clear reason for reaching out: I’m writing to include you as an expert on XYZ topic in my latest blog post.
- The site the quote will be featured on: It will be featured on xyz.com
- Your query written as specifically as possible: Would you be able to provide two lines on the state of XYZ, and include a stat to back up your opinion?
- A deadline for the expert to respond by: If you can respond by the end of Thursday, I can guarantee inclusion in the blog post.
- What’s in it for them (this is usually known as all press is good press, right?): The publication will include this post in its monthly email to 100,000 subscribers.
So your email might look something like this:
I’m writing to see if you can provide an expert opinion on the future of SaaS content marketing. I’m writing a blog post for first500words.org and would love to feature you.
Please can you provide two lines on what you think the future of SaaS content marketing will be along with a stat to back this up?
I do need a response by the end of play Thursday to be able to guarantee inclusion.
I’ve already got confirmation that my post will be included in their monthly newsletter (which goes out to 100,000 subscribers!)
Look forward to your response.
2b – On-page SEO optimisation
The next thing to look at is optimising your SEO blog post for search engines. While we firmly believe that the most comprehensive version of what is available gets rewarded, there are some checklist items for getting your post noticed by Google and the likes:
- Optimise your metadescription: don’t just write one, put your target keyphrase at the beginning. Make it obvious what you’re writing about.
- Make your URL super-specific: if your post if about SEO blog posts, make the URL /seo-blog-post. The “how to write” part doesn’t need to be there as that’s not what we’re trying to rank for (though it might).
- Be strategic with title tags: you could leave your headings as they are or you could provide an alternative using the title tags section of your CMS. Use this box to provide SEO synonyms. These are words and phrases people might use to find your content.
- Add alt text and title tags to your images: Google Image Search is a hidden gem when it comes to getting your content seen. By including strategic search terms in your images, you stand a chance of being featured in the Images section on the SERPs.
2c – Internal links
When you’ve got a bank of blog posts already published then you’ve already got your first backlink. Okay, so it comes from your own site – does that matter?
Here’s what you’re going to do:
- If you have written the blog posts yourself, you’ll know which posts mentioned the topic you just finished writing about. Add links from those posts to your new post.
- If you can’t recall which posts mention your most recent topic, go to your web browser and type site: yoursite.com keyword – an example is site: first500words.org SEO blog post. Add links from the posts that appear to your new article.
That’s it – you’ve done your internal linking!
Are internal links important?
Yes, internal links are important.
As Andy Crestodina, CMO at Orbita Media, says:
“Internal links are the underrated workhorse of SEO and UX.”
Rather than breaking down why internal links are important, I’m going to use Andy’s explanation – because it’s perfect.
- Internal links pass authority from one page to another (search optimisation)
- Internal links guide visitors to high-value, relevant content (usability / UX)
- Internal links prompt visitors to act, as calls-to-action (conversion optimisation)
Wikipedia is the perfect example of the power of internal linking. Think about how many internal links each page has. Then think about how many internal links the site has. Then think about how many times Wikipedia has been the #1 result when you search for something.
It’s not a coincidence.
Check out this case study by Browser Media when you’re done reading this post.
3. Promoting your blog post
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If I’m writing an SEO blog post, why do I need to worry about promotion?
I’ll level with you. Once I started seeing 100,000s of views come flying in, I was exactly the same.
Until I wasn’t.
Why is content promotion important?
Here is my exact experience of feeling like an SEO king one day and a complete failure the next (because I wasn’t spending time on content promotion):
- The Mio blog has grown over the last 18 months and is pacing quite nicely at ~6,000 page views per day.
- Out of nowhere, I log in on Tuesday morning and notice that 160 people read the blog on Monday — this shock is depicted by the horrible dip and flatline on the graph below.
3. Where had the traffic gone? Had we been blacklisted? Is this the end of my content marketing career?
4. The answer was that over 93% of our traffic came from organic search. Via people using search engines and finding something we’d written. Upon searching those terms (in an incognito Chrome browser), I discovered we were no longer on Google for any of our blog posts.
5. After much panic, tweeting, and panic tweeting, it was clear that Google was suffering from its own indexing issue and we were one of the 0.02% of sites on Google affected. (0.02% still equates to a few billion pages).
6. To get back the organic traffic I felt we deserved, I was helpless. I could only wait for Google. (Don’t do this!)
7. Instead, I documented all the ways we could regain those figures that I got used to reporting each week. My content promotion strategies blog post was born and I started to follow them myself.
8. In time, we started to see the graph recover. But the lesson I learned during those three weeks was that a documented content promotion strategy is a must for any content marketing team.
How to promote content
When you hit publish, make your next step to start promoting your content.
Over time, you’ll find the best places to share all content, specific content, and perhaps some that leverage no clicks and you can stop sharing.
Try out these content promotion tactics to get started:
- Post on your company Twitter
- Post on your personal Twitter
- Share on your company LinkedIn
- Share on your personal LinkedIn
- Add to your company Facebook
- Add to your personal Facebook
- Create a Medium account then copy and paste your content there (using a canonical link)
- Share in relevant sub reddits
- Answer Quora questions
- Schedule an email to your subscribers
- Post in industry-specific forums
- Ask peers and colleagues to share on their social media
- Find LinkedIn groups that will love your post
- Find Facebook groups that will love your post
- Talk about your content (on podcasts, on Clubhouse, in-person)
- Record a promotion video (and share that)
- Tag people who might like your post
- Build links with warm relationships
- Do some cold linking building outreach
- Write a guest post with a link to this recent post
Items 19 and 20 in this list take time. Larger content marketing teams have people dedicated to these roles. If you can’t make time for these two, focus on the first 18.
Or, if you want a head start, download my content promotion checklist.