I was having an email discussion yesterday with one of my friends and clients regarding how ineffective some banner ads where performing on his blog. The first thing I did when I read his initial email was look at his traffic – As I suspected, it was low. His site was averaging about 100 visits per day. Too low for any type of significant ad revenue, regardless of the type. Looking a little further in Analytics, I realized his overall search engine traffic was fairly low. I have some very simple and effective strategies on how to write an article for SEO that I use, and rather than email them to him, I thought I’d share them here via an article so everyone can benefit.
Let me clarify one very important concept when trying to earn an income blogging: traffic = revenue potential. The more traffic you have, the more revenue you will receive from your blog. Search engine traffic traditionally results in the highest rate of click throughs for banners, ads and affiliate links. Normal readers of your blog (those coming to your blog directly and not from search engines) typically are more apt to click through affiliate products and purchase your products (eBooks, e-classes, coaching, plugins, tools, etc).
Traffic = Revenue potential
One of the key things you can do to drive additional traffic to your blog is write SEO articles (SEO = Search Engine Optimization). SEO articles basically tweak your article so that it will rank higher on a Google SERP (Search Engine Result Page). How to write an article for SEO? Well, glad you asked…
Focus on the reader first
One of the big mistakes that bloggers make is writing for the search engine. While this can certainly generate some traffic to your blog, it results in articles that don’t read well. Articles that don’t read well result in readers that don’t stay or stick around – limiting your future revenue potential and limiting the growth of your blog. Remember, the longer readers stay on your site, the more ads they are exposed to. The more ads they see, the higher the chance they will click on them. Keeping readers on your site is critical for long term monetization.
Your first draft of an article should not focus on SEO at all, just write the article and 100% focus on the reader – Teach them, add value to their lives, help them grow and relate to them. Once you finish the article, then you can come back and tweak it for SEO.
Let’s say you want to create a slick new logo for your blog. If you’re like me, one of the first things you do is pull up Google and type something like “How to create a blog logo” or maybe “Create a blog logo”. Both of these phrases are called keywords or keyword phrases. The primary strategy for SEO is placing keywords and keyword phrases in your article. Doing so helps the search engines recognize what your article is about, and thus show your article on the SERP when those keywords are entered by Google users.
Here’s the big trick – Tweaking your article for the keywords and keyword phrases that users are searching for. Fortunately for us, Google provides a tool, aptly named The Keyword Tool, that helps us research the keywords Google users are looking for. The Keyword Tool allows you to enter a word or phrase, and the results will show the various related keywords users of Google are putting into the search engine. The tool will additionally also show you the approximate number of searches being done for those keywords each month as well.
As an example, let’s say you’re writing an article on how to create a blog logo. To find what keywords users are searching for in Google:
- Pull up The Keyword Tool
- In the Word or phrase field, enter “blog logo”. Tip: keep the word or phrase you put here brief, as it will result in more search results
- Press Search
- Click the Keyword Ideas tab below the Search button – Google added a new tab called Ad group ideas, which is the default. While this tab can be beneficial, I find it annoying they made it the default.
- The resulting screen should look similar to the one below (click on the image for a larger view).
The average blogger will want to find keywords with a 1000 – 5000 value in the Global Monthly Searches column. Why not focus on the really big ones? Well, you can, but given these are high traffic search keywords – larger and more successful sights generally target these, often referred to as short tail keywords. As a smaller blog, competing with these larger and higher ranking sites is difficult if not impossible. Given that, I recommend focusing on the medium traffic keywords and working to rank high for them. Ranking high for many different medium traffic keywords can result in a large amount of traffic over time. This strategy in marketing terms is referred to as The Long Tail. Once you have a successful long tail and your blog is growing, you can begin targeting those higher volume keywords.
Alright, so keep searching and keep playing around in the tool until you come up with a set of 5 or so keywords or keyword phrases that are close to the words you used in your article. Next we’ll use these keywords to tweak your article for SEO get get you some good quality search engine traffic.
Using keywords in your article
Now comes the real work – effectively using the keywords in your article. Finding the right combination and correct amount of usage of those keywords can be tough and unfortunately generally requires a bit of trial and error. I’ll often make 4 or 5 revisions of an article over the course of a few weeks after it was initially published to get it to rank well.
Fortunately, the techniques themselves are very easy:
1 – Use the keywords in your title and permalink
First and foremost, the primary keyword or key phrase that you are targeting should always be in your Title and in your permalink. So for example, let’s say the title of your draft article is currently “Creating a blog logo”. As part of your keyword research, you found that “how to create a blog logo” is a good medium level traffic keyword to target. Change the title from “Creating a blog logo” to “How to create a blog logo”. Your initial permalink is most likely “creating-blog-logo”. Use the Edit button to change this to: “how-to-create-a-blog-logo”.
Having the keywords in your title and in your permalink go a long way to optimizing your article for your selected keywords. Just doing this single item alone will significantly increase your ranking on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
2 – Use the keywords in the first paragraph of your article
While somewhat contested, I’ve personally seen this make a positive change to my ranking – Use the keywords or keyword phrase in the first paragraph of your article. Even better, in the first sentence. Using “How to create a blog logo”, you could use something like:
One of the most important design items of your blog is your logo, as it is the very first thing visitors see (and remember) on your blog. Wondering how to create a blog logo of your own? That is exactly what I’m going to walk you through…
Your keywords may be a little difficult to work in. Don’t forget, focus on the reader – meaning don’t make the article read incorrectly just for the sake of getting your keyword in. If you can’t find a good and readable way to work your keyword(s) in, change the phrase a little so that the keywords, or most of the keywords are there, but keeps the article readable. For example, consider an alternative such as: “create a blog logo”. While not optimal, it’s better than nothing and may keep your article readable.
3 – Use Sub-headings
Always, always, always use sub-headings in your article. Sub-headings are not only considered by search engines but they also break your content up, and making your articles easier to read. Additionally, most web surfers won’t read your entire article at all, they will instead skim it and read pieces of it. Adding headings to break up your content really help your readers skim the content and dive into the sections most valuable for them.
If you are using the Thesis theme, your sub-headings should always be <h3> tags. For other themes, it depends – To find out what you should use, determine what header level your article title is, and use the text level down. For example, in your theme if you blog title is an h3, your sub-headings should be h4. If you aren’t sure what your title heading is, use Google Chrome’s inspection ability to find out.
Using the right level is important. Google looks at your page layout and organization. If you have improper level headings, it can hurt your search engine rankings. What I mean by this is that having H3s as your title, and H2s are your subheadings is a no-no and will most likely hurt your ranking – exactly what we’re trying to avoid! Headings should always go in order H1 -> H2 -> H3 -> Hn.
4 – Use keywords conservatively in the text of your article and sprinkle in secondary keywords as well
This part is a little more of a gray area. You want to sprinkle your main target keywords and the other secondary keywords into your article content. BUT, don’t overdue it. Frankly, I’d recommend you err on the side of: less equals more. Google is smart, and they can detect when you are “keyword stuffing” – If they do, it can hurt your ratings.
So what is the magical percentage? There isn’t one. Sprinkle the keywords in, keep the article very readable. Remember too, that you need to write your content first, focusing on the reader, then come back and revise the article by sprinkling in the keywords in such a way that the article still reads well and provides value. Don’t over think this strategy, there is no mathematical exactly correct answer.
An on going process
Another big mistake new bloggers make is following all of the above optimization strategies, pressing publish and never looking at the article again. SEO requires constant monitoring, change and tweaking. Use Google analytics to determine what keywords are bringing users to your blog and your articles. If you see a set of similar keywords driving traffic to your article, make some adjustments. The important thing to do when making adjustments is track your results. If they increase your traffic and rankings, great. If they don’t, change it back.
Let me know how these tips work for you, I’d love to hear about your progress. Have questions? Add a comment, I’ll always reply.
Photo by: qwrrty