SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization which is essential to your blog post being ranked by Google. Good SEO can make all the difference between a successful post and one that is completely ignored.
SEO is often about making small changes rather than find tricks that’ll automatically rank your site first in Google.
When viewed the changes individually, these changes might seem like minor improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could make a big difference.
Images are important and useful for SEO. It is good to have at least one image and preferably 4 to 6 images.
However, make sure to place them at least 1 to 2 paragraphs into you post. Also, make sure to have some text between them.
Keep in mind these images should be relevant and useful not just filler. One thing food bloggers are known for doing is posting a bunch of similar pictures.
Another thing that used to be popular with food bloggers is a bunch of process shots.
If all your photos have the same alt description then they are too similar and shouldn’t be used.
If your process shots are obvious like “place the flour in the bowl” and “add sugar to the bowl with flower” then maybe you’re just going to annoy your reader with these images instead of helping them.
The ideal type of images are going to be helpful and useful. Examples of this are a bunch of different photos of the section of London you are writing about, a step by step of braiding bread, process shots of removing a battery from an e-reader.
Your image title tells Google what your image is of. Make sure to use your keyword in the title so you can possibly rank for it in Google Images.
Image ALT Text
All of your images should have an alt text. Alt text is the alternative text you put in your alt tag.
This was created for seeing impaired so keep that in mind when you write. However, it is also now used by Google to decide which images to generate in their image search.
Proper alt text is simple and descriptive like “woman in a pink dress standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.”
Your image size should be as small as your site comfortably allows. I always use are 600 pixels by 900 pixels. I also create thumbnails that are 200px x 200px to make sure to have only the size I need on my blog.
The more images you have and the larger they are the slower your site will be. This makes for bad SEO and user experience which will also increase your bounce rate.
All images should be saved as JPEGs and preferably JPEG2000. Never save your images an PNG or GIF if you can help it.
Google looks for content that does the best job to inform and answer the readers questions. Good SEO regarding writing means that you write informative useful content.
To do this, do your best to try to think of any questions your reader may ask and information they may need to know.
For a food blog it may be alternatives to ingredients, for travel blog it may be how to get to the location you are talking about, for tech it may be related issues.
Font size used to not be as important when desk tops were the main source of searches. However, now that mobile is the vast majority of web traffic good SEO requires larger font sizes.
12 pixel fonts look nice on desktop but is much to small on a cell phone. Google recommends using at least 16 pixels font size.
Mediavine recommends using at least 18 pixels and ideally as large a font as you can mange without looking bad.
I use 19 or 20 pixels because it’s not too big on desktop and not too small on cell phones. It also has the added bonus for increasing ad revenue.
Line height helps separate sentences so they don’t overlap. By default line height is 1.2. This means it is 1.2 times the size of your font. So, if your font is 16 pixels the line height will be about 19 pixels which will look very squished.
Google recommends using a line height of 1.5 instead and Mediavine recommends to play it safe and use a 1.6 line height. Google tends to give the minimum you should do, however Mediavine’s recommended 1.6 makes it even easier to read.
Making things easier for your reader which leads to a much better user experience which in turn gives better SEO which leads to better rankings.
In school you learn that you paragraphs should contain 3 to 4 sentences. This however is not good for mobile readers.
So, best practices for blog posts is to have paragraphs only 1 to 2 sentences long. Shorter paragraphs prevent large blocks of texts on mobile where most posts are read.
Large paragraphs on mobile can take up the whole screen known as a “wall of text” and become tiring for your reader. This will in turn create a worse reader experience.
This is not technically SEO but it does lead to better reader experience and those things often become SEO standards.
There is no exact rule for text length, however it is generally recommended that it be a minimum of 300 to 500 words long. Ideally at least 500 to 1000 words.
Longer content that has useful information to your reader in it will usually rank better. This means longer content is generally considered good SEO practice.
However, very long content is dense and hard to read. There for it should be broken up by headings.
If it’s too hard for you to write 300 to 1000 words, you can always extended later.
When I first started blogging I struggled to reach 300 words and it made me hate writing posts. However, over time I added more relevant information, and now the same posts are 4,000 to 6,000 words long.
Honestly, posts I know aren’t going to get much traffic but I post for those who may care, I just write as little as I want. Then if they pick up on Pinterest or something I think of ideas of ways to lengthen them.
Headings used to be more important than they are today. In fact, they they hardly matter at all.
However using them make for a good user experience will lead to better SEO.
So, use them to create a visual hierarchy in your content and to break up text into sections so it’s more digestible.
Doing this will also allow your reader to skim your post. This will lead to them stopping and reading information they find useful.
H1 is the largest heading size, H standing for heading, and should only be used for your title. WordPress does this automatically.
H2 is the next to largest header and should be used to signify different sections. WordPress automatically gives this as the largest header option.
H3 is used for subcategories within your H2 sections. For example, if I were to write a post about bread I wanted to speak about yeast, yeast would be in an H2 header but the different types of yeast would be categorized under H3 headers.
Under that there is H4, H5, and H6. These would work the same way nested inside each other. However, they are very rarely used.
You want to sprinkle keywords throughout your blog post. This helps google know if your post is relevant to different searches.
Keep in mind that too little is pretty much useless and too many is considered keyword stuffing. A good plugin for this is Yoast which will tell you if your in the ideal range.
Short Tail Keyword
Keywords are technically examples of this are “brownies” or “Rome.” This is called a short tail keyword which makes it very competitive.
For this reason it’s best to target long tail keywords. Just make sure they are the most relevant to your post.
There are many keyword tools to help you find the best keyword for your post including key surfer which is free.
Long Tail Keywords
Where a short tail keyword like “cheesecake” are very competitive. That’s why you should target long tail keywords which are actually a key “phrase” rather than a key “word.”
Long tail keywords like “white chocolate cheese cake,” “strawberry cheese cake,” “gluten free cheese cake,” or “cheesecake with blueberry sauce.” These are much easier to try to rank for.
Mediavine has a great video about long tail keywords.
Make sure to have your keyword mentioned as close to the beginning of your title as possible. You also want it the first sentience of the paragraph of your post.
Having the keyword or phrase at the beginning will make it more eye catching for a reader. This will lead to a better click through rate and a lower bounce rate.
Another good place to have them is in the headings. It makes it easier for the reader to see what they want to read while skimming.
When using your long tail keyword you want to keep the phrasing as exact as possible. Do your best not to add in any words to break it up.
For example, if you’re long tail keyword phrase is “caramel brownies”. Do not say “brownies with caramel swirls” if you want it to count.
Use the long tail keyword once or twice in the post. Google specifically states in their video on keyword density that after the first two times it really doesn’t help much.
If you use it a ton of times actually hurts readability and Google will see it as “keyword stuffing.” When this happens you get penalized.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the short tail version. You don’t want to say “vegan caramel brownies” more than a couple of times, but you can use the word “brownies” or “vegan brownies” where it feels natural.
Where to put your keywords
- Use keyword as Post Title. So, “vegan brownies” rather than “best ever vegan brownies.”
- Use the keyword in the first paragraph, as close to the beginning of the paragraph as possible.
- Use the long tail keyword once or twice more in the post.
- Use the keyword phrase in the recipe name if you are doing a recipe.
- Use your keyword phrase as the photo name. This allows Google Image Search to index your images.
- Use keywords in your image Alt Text.
There are three types of links. Internal links, external links, backlinks. All three are useful for good SEO and you should only link to useful content for our user.
Make sure the URL you use begins with https rather than http. The S stands for safe which Google requires sites to be now.
Not all web hosts have this set automatically for you for URLs of links they pull up for you. Lyrical Host automatically does, but I had to have my links from my time with BlueHost switched over (which Lyrical Host did for me as soon as I asked for it).
Anchor text is a link on plain text. This means you are pretty much anchoring the link to the text that which should in itself be a description of whats on the other end.
For instance, if you have recipe for apple pie that you want to link to, the link should say “apple pie”.
While it can be an exact match to the title of the post you are linking to, it doesn’t have to if it sounds unnatural.
Google specifically says that they like links with anchor text because it tells the reader what it is.
What you should not be doing is showing a full link, linking on an image (except for your logo), using a button, or even using text that “click here.” Google does not like these because it creates bad user experience.
Internal links are ones you do within our post to other content on your site (not including sub domain pages). This includes all links on the page like those in your navigation bar, side bar, and footer.
It is good to link as many useful and relevant links as you can in your post to balance out those irrelevant links. This creates a better user exerpince.
This also means that you should make sure to only have necessary links in your navigation bars in general since those links will show on every page.
In addition, linking to your own content also helps Google make connections between your different posts so it is good for SEO.
External links are ones that you link to something outside your site. These links should be related to your content and useful to your reader.
You should only link to content that you trust and see as valuable. This should be to content created experts in their field. These experts can just as easily be respectable bloggers as it can be scientists.
This can be helpful to your SEO as well because it helps Google see it as a good user experience. This also helps your reader as well as Google to establish your authority.
By backing up your information with sources you are showing your reader you can be trust. Likewise, you are showing Google that your post is related to the information shared by the expert.
Try to have 4 to 5 internal link for every external link you share. This is related to pagerank which I discuss further down.
If you can’t create that many links to yourself that’s okay. If you link out to other websites 3 times, make sure to link around to yourself at least 3 times too. If you can manage it, 4 is better.
Remember, external links include affiliate links, other bloggers, news articles, brand websites. All of these count!
Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are links coming to your content from other sites. This is especially true if they link directly to a relevant post, rather than your homepage, using anchor text.
While backlinks don’t hold anywhere near the same value as they once did, they still good SEO.
This is valuable because it helps Google see you as an expert. The more of an authority the source of the link is the more valuable the link is to you.
The more authorities, especially relevant authorities, you have linking to you as an expert yourself, the more Google will see you as one as well.
While bad backlinks aren’t ideal, they do show that your links are natural. It’s like having a 4.9 star view rather than 5 out of 5.
However, if you do get one Google is concerned about they will show you a manual action through Google Search console so make sure to be connected to it.
Also, do not try to get yourself links by commenting on peoples posts and putting a link to yourself. Links in comments are no followed automatically.
Every post has one vote to something else giving it credibility. This used to be very important for ranking in Google. It has a small amount of value now.
That vote is then divided between all the links in your post. If you have one link, that means it gets the whole vote. If you have five links then they each get 1/5 a vote.
Don’t try linking to the same page more than once within the in a post to get a higher percentage of a vote. Google only counts it once.
Here is a great article about pagerank and why links are so important.
How many times can you link?
You can have thousands of links within your post. Mediavine recommends linking in every paragraph if possible – which is very hard to do.
However, make sure not to over optimize links by adding to many one one paragraph. One or two per paragraph is ideal assuming you follow the one to two like paragraph recommendation.
Make sure to only link to posts you want to rank. Like mentioned above, each link is a vote to the worth of your post.
Also, make sure that the vast majority are internal links. Affiliate links are fine too.
No Follow Links
Since links mean credibility, for SEO you must no follow links that you are paid for. That means if you are doing a sponsored post or sharing affiliate links, you must no follow them.
You also want to no follow links to something you are writing negatively about. This is because you won’t want to give credibility in Googles eyes to something you are against.
Everything else you link to should be a follow link or it’s worthless and you might as well not be linking to it at all.
Link Check List
- Have you linked to other relevant your own site content at least twice?
- When linking, did you make sure to hyperlink using anchor text on the keyword phrase for the other posts?
- Are you linking to outside content, and if so, is it more than you are linking to your own?
Googles SEO Starter Guide
If you are interested in a more in depth reading, Google was nice enough to create an SEO starter guide for anyone who wants “a complete overview of the basics of SEO according to [their] best practices.”