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Erica HerbertJuly 12, 20164 min read

Back to Basics: Content-Based SEO for Blogging


A lot can be said about SEO for blogging, but maybe you’re just looking to brush up on the basics for your next post. Perfect—you’re right where you should be. You’ve landed on a simple, yet effective, guide to optimizing your next masterpiece.

In this post, we'll cover crucial keyword research tips, how to select terms, what elements to optimize within an individual post, plus a bonus tip at the end.

Let’s get started so you can get blogging.

Select keywords for your blog post.

If you don’t have access to paid keyword research software, such as Moz or SEMrush, no worries. Here’s where you can start.

Step 1: Create a list of potential keywords and phrases.

Creating a list of keywords without data is like driving somewhere new with no directions. How will you reach your end destination or goal?

Below are a few free tools for more strategic keyword research, and how to use them. This is just the starting point, so feel free to get creative as you build your keyword ideas list. Here’s how to find inspiration: 

  • If you have access to search console, take a look at what your site is already potentially ranking for under search analytics. This will show you search queries that led to clicks to your site. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. If you’re already ranking for a keyword, it’s easier to boost already-present rankings.
  • Search your topic on Google and take a look at some of the top page results. Look at titles, headers and meta descriptions. See if you can pick out some phrases that are relevant to your topic.
  • Spy on the competition. Find pages on your competitors’ sites, or blogs, that are about a similar topic, and take a look at what they might be trying to optimize for. Tip: For stealthier spying, download Open SEO Stats and Web Developer extensions for your browser. These will help you quickly identify content elements without having to go into a page’s source code.

Step 2: Plug ‘em into keyword planner.

Yeah, we know Keyword Planner gets a bad rap. Nobody’s perfect. But these are blogging SEO basics, so let’s get real. Keyword Planner is the perfect tool for your needs. It is easy to use, helpful when you need to get ideas flowing, and it’s free. Put a few of your keyword ideas into the planner and take a look at the search volume and competition.

Step 3: Select the most relevant, effective keywords.

Don’t let all of your research go to waste! You still have to select the most effective keywords for your blog post.

  • Identify keywords with high search volume and low competition. Search volume is relative to the topic, but look for a low competition in keyword planner. If you download your results from keyword planner, you can see a competition ranking from 0 to 1. Target a level below .4 if you can.
  • Aim for long tail keywords like “where to buy grapefruit beer.” These have lower competition and a more specific, targeted audience.
  • Select only one or two keywords per post, and make sure they are similar. Don’t try to optimize for two very different phrases. This will probably mess up your writing process, and your writing won’t sound natural.

Optimize your post using selected keywords.

Optimization can come before or after you craft the actual post—it’s up to you. However, you might save yourself some time by selecting keywords before you start writing, as your keywords can shape post headers and some of the body copy. Keywords can also help you hone in on a more targeted topic.

Step 4: Add your keywords to your post elements.

Below are a few content-based blog post elements you should consider adding keywords to:

  • H1
  • All other header tags
  • On-page copy
  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • URL
  • Alt tags
  • File names

While each of these elements is important, and every little optimization adds up, the most important elements to optimize are the H1, on-page copy, page title and meta description. These are important topic indicators for web crawlers.

Also, below are a few details to keep in mind as you add keywords to your post:

  • Don’t force it! A lot of SEO boils down to the user experience. If your headline is spammy, people are going to bounce. Plus, web crawling bots will see that.
  • Mix it up. If your longtail keyword is “where to buy watermelon beer,” but it makes more sense as a title to write “Where Should You Buy Watermelon Beer?” it’s OK to have variations throughout your copy. Use natural language, and think of the user first. Always.
  • Re-think your strategy, if need be. If your selected keywords really aren’t fitting into your copy, this could be a sign that it’s time to re-think your selected keywords.

Utilize linking for optimization. 

Finally, here’s that bonus tip I promised: Another simple post optimization tactic is to add internal and outbound links. These can include links to other blog posts, product pages, external resources… you get the picture.

Only link to reputable sites, though, if possible. If you HAVE to link to a spammy site (try to avoid this) as an example for your topic, include a “no follow” link (add a rel="nofollow" attribute to the <a> tag).

Alright, that was your brush-up on content-based SEO for blogging. Side note: Isn’t it weird to think that you just read a blog post about optimizing a blog post that has, in fact, been optimized itself? Maybe that’s just me.

Ready to write your next post? Try out these tips and let me know how they worked for you. Good luck!

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 Image Credit: Danard Vincente via flickr


Erica Herbert

Erica Herbert is a Consultant at PR 20/20. She joined the agency in April 2016 after spending two years at a digital marketing agency in Cleveland. Erica is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where she earned a degree in magazine journalism.