- Writing starts with performing keyword discovery to see how many people are searching for your topic on Google
- Write for Google by including the keywords that you found within your article
- Write for people by making your content educational or entertaining
- Build content that showcases Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T)
- Link to other supporting information (quotes from exports, other websites, etc)
- Write a compelling Meta Title and Meta Description
- Include original images and try to avoid stock photography
- Make a goal of getting three to five (3-5) websites to link to your new blog post after you hit publish
This guide answers the following questions:
What is keyword research, and why is it just as vital as ever?
How did I do keyword research for this blog post?
What makes a blog post popular on Google?
How do you pick relevant keywords?
How do you set up your page to be Search Engine friendly?
What does “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness” mean?
What do you need to do after you publish your article?
How to Rank a Blog Post
Have you ever asked yourself “how did that person get their blog post to show up on Google, but why isn’t mine?”
You are not alone!
The problem usually isn’t the quality of your content but that Google doesn’t understand your content.
The solution is simple.
Write in a way so that Google can understand your content. This is also referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or making your website/blog post “search engine friendly.”
Unfortunately, there is a lot of really bad advice out there.
That is why I reached out to SEO expert Steve Wiideman, who has been helping blogs rank higher in Google’s search results for the last 20 years.
Making Your Blog Popular to Google is a Ranking Factor
Anyone can apply the best practices in this post to help with keyword rankings, but if Google doesn’t see the post as being helpful using off-page signals (we’ll call it popularity) rankings may not last as long as you’d like them to.
Think of a link as a “vote.”
While this is a really simplified way of looking at Search Engine Optimization, it has helped Google decide what content should rank and what content should not.
All Links Are Not Considered Equal
If Steve (who is an expert in the field of search engine optimization) were to link to this post, that would be considered a quality link.
Steve is in a similar field to what I am writing about: ranking on Google.
A link from a pizza restaurant to this blog post wouldn’t be considered nearly as relevant. That one link from Steve might be more valuable than, say, 10 irrelevant links.
This means that quality is much more important than quantity.
Ranking Your Post Begins With Keyword Research
If you are not sure what to write about, find a problem that people have. Marketers call this “early-stage content” because a person might not yet have a specific solution in mind.
If you need help finding some problems that people are having (“early-stage content”), you can use tools like:
- Ask the Public – a freemium tool with ideas but no search volume metrics.
- SEMRush – a paid tool for really diving into keywords filterable by buyer journey phases and by questions (Steve Wiideman, mentioned above, uses this suite religiously).
- SerpStat – another robust keyword tool offering filter abilities that include questions.
Keyword Research For This Blog Post
For this blog post, I am trying to help people solve the problem of “how does my blog post show up high on Google?”
Start With a General Search on Google
Some people call it when you show up on Google “ranking.” So I am going to throw out a starting point search term “rank blog post.”
If you were to search “rank blog post” on Google, you will find some relevant posts similar to my content.
Since the first search result seems similar to what I am going to write about, “rank blog post” is a good keyword to start my research.
Searches Related to “how to rank blog post”
Scroll down to the bottom of the page until you see the Searches related to how to rank blog post section.
This is going to give you hints of other problems that people might need solving based on what they are searching for.
Google Ads Keyword Planner
Copy the terms in the “Searches related to how to rank blog post” section and paste them into Google Ads Keyword Planner.
As you can see, Google will show some traffic stats. There aren’t 100% accurate, but what I am looking for are trends.
Start a spreadsheet with this data:
Copy Competitor URLs
Go back to the original search results on Google and copy the URLs of blog posts that are already rank for the keyword that I want to rank for.
These are the urls from the search results page for “rank blog post:”
- For this one, remove the #6da601166693
Use a Keyword Tool (Such As SEMrush) And Analyze the URLs For Keywords
SEMrush will let you analyze a specific web page and help you understand the keywords that page shows up for as well as the potential visitors that page could get.
Select Organic Research and paste each URL into the search bar. Make sure to filter the Positions to “top 20” filter out some of the less popular keywords.
Export a spreadsheet for each URL you check.
Copy All Data Into Your Spreadsheet
Copy all the data you found from the different spreadsheets into an Excel or Google Sheet.
If you want to see my original data, go to my Google Sheet.
Add A Column For Frequency
Once you create the new column for frequency, put a value of 1 next to each keyword.
Create A Pivot Table To Find The Most Popular Keywords
By using a pivot table, you can find which keywords generate the most visits by the frequency of times they show up in the pages you analyzed.
Picking Relevant Keywords
I used to work with a company that was optimizing to show up on Google for the term “footwear.” This is because they worked in the fashion industry and footwear is an industry term. Normal people like you and me don’t use that term. Instead we call what goes on our feet, “shoes.”
Here is a screenshot from Google Trends showing the huge difference between shoes vs. footwear.
As you can see, the red line is much higher showing that people search for shoes much more than they do footwear.
Since shoes are still relevant and have more people searching every month, I would optimize for shoes instead of footwear.
Blog Terms vs. Blog Post Terms
Pivoting to this blog post, look at the two search terms below:
“How to rank a blog” – this term is probably better targeted for a person searching for blog SEO which is the process of optimizing an entire blog to rank on Google.
“How to rank blog post” – this search term is perfect for my goal of showing how someone can get their blog post to show up on Google.
If our keyword isn’t relevant to at least 51% of users searching, it’s probably not worth trying to rank for or to track against.
How do you know if a keyword is 51% specific to your content or not?
Simple: search your keyword in Google and look at the pages that appear in the results.
If more than 51% have nothing to do with your page, it’s likely that Google has figured out the type of content users are searching when performing that query. Don’t swim against the current. Where it’s not simple, is when you have 18,000 keywords from your research to go through – again separating the experts willing to take the necessary time versus novices who will just use shortcuts and miss their targets.
What happens when this goes wrong?
The most common mistake with writing content is writing for the user in a different mindset than the copy addresses. In other words, if a user is shopping or looking to buy, an article or blog post would be a huge turn off and provoke a bounce back to Google to choose a page more in line with their purchase journey phase. Likewise, if a user looking for information and they land on a sales page optimized to rank for an informational query, the user will likely also bounce. This behavior over time signals the search engines that the page was not helpful, forcing the listing to move down in the rankings.
Properties Of A Low Bounce Rate Sales Page
- Invokes sales principles: trust, reciprocity, urgency, scarcity and overall convincing contextual focal points
- Strong subheadings that address the What, Why, Who, and How Much
- Uses transparency and doesn’t beat around the bush with pricing and fine print
- Breaks up paragraphs with bullet points
- Offers a button or clickable icons (referred to as a “calls to action”) so the user knows what they are expected to do if the content was convincing enough
- Offers visual and audio authenticity queues (custom graphics and video are great)
- Something free, so the user isn’t forced to make content if they aren’t ready yet (such as a PDF download or checklist)
Properties Of A Low Bounce Rate Marketing Page
- No promising headlines or “salesy” copy
- Well-organized with a table of contents
- Short summary at the top (shareable is a bonus)
- Shareable images and videos that are helpful and are non-promotional
- External references throughout the copy
- Bullet points and numbered lists to break up multiple paragraphs
Test Your Critical Thinking:
Match the terms below with their appropriate content-type:
What do you think this keywords content type would be: "About Our Blog"
What do you think this keywords content type would be: "Blog Marketing Services"
What do you think this keywords content type would be: "Blogging Tips?"
Structuring Your Blog Post To Rank on Google
A blog post that is optimized for a search engine like Google is made up of the following:
- A Category
- A URL Filename
- A Page Title
- A H1 Header
- Other Headers (H2s-H5s)
- Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
- Original Images
- Short Summaries (or a Table of Contents)
As you can see, I created a category on my blog called “post-seo.” If you look at my URL, you can see the keyword. This just came from that original keyword discovery spreadsheet.
I incorporated my top keyword into my URL:
Before doing keyword research, here were some of my original ideas for the blog title:
- Blog SEO So That You Can Get Free Traffic By Ranking High On Google
- So That People Can Find Your Post on Google
- How to master _____ without spending hours a day or costing you a fortune
- Blog SEO Demystified. Learn Tips from The Best Without Having to Be A Pro.
- 7 Must-do Tactics For Blog SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
After looking at the keyword research, I decided on a blog post title that incorporated the most searched for terms:
“Definitive Guide For Writing To Rank Your Blog Posts On Google”
Headers are the title to each section. These are often referred to as H1, H2s, H3s, etc.
The beautiful thing about doing this keyword research is that based on what you discover, the other “most searched for keywords” should be inserted into your headers. This helps you structure what to write about.
The H1 is your thesis statement.
After looking at the keyword research, for this post it would be “How to Rank a Blog Post.”
H2s support that thesis statement.
After looking at the keyword research, an example of an H2 header would be “Making Your Blog Popular to Google is a Ranking Factor.”
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The next piece of the puzzle is writing content that Google will use if/when you show up for a search result. The two most important parts are the “Title Tag” and “Meta Description.”
The Title Tag and Meta Description should be really compelling. This is because you are directly addressing your audience who may be searching for solutions to a problem that you hope your article solves.
A Title Tag needs to be 512 pixels or less to prevent your title for getting shortened (or truncated) which will look like a sentence that gets cut off followed by periods at the end (. . .).
“SEO Blog Posts – How to Rank Your Post in Google Like a Pro”
If you are using WordPress, you also want to make sure your website name isn’t added to the end. For example “SEO Blog Posts – How to Rank Your Post in Google Like a Pro – Solve Interesting Problems” needs to be shorted to “SEO Blog Posts – How to Rank Your Post in Google Like a Pro”
A Meta Description needs to be 150 characters or less.
Here is an example of a meta description for this post:
“We studied top ranking blog posts and identified what made them rank. Read the full list here to improve the Google rankings of your awesome content!”
Using a tool like the Google Snippet SERP Preview that Steve created will help count the characters in your Title Tag and Meta Description.
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions On Mobile Devices
Every year we are seeing that websites need to accomodate people that view them on desktop and mobile devices. If you can write a specific Title Tag and Meta Description for mobile devices, you need to be aware that there are some changes from the desktop view. For example, your Title Tag can now be 78 characters long. The Meta Description however must be a maximum of 130 characters.
An image is an easy way of creating interest in your blog post. Stock photography sites make this easy by offering images for under $10. Since we talked above about having original content on your website, Google can tell who is using stock photography vs original photography.
Once you decide on an image, include a caption.
An idea that I got from Steve was to shoot a 30-second video of yourself introducing your post. You could even say something like, “be sure to check out paragraph 3 because I wrote about…”
If creating original imagery isn’t your area of expertise, try hiring a company like Design Pickle. For a low monthly price, you can work with a skilled graphic designer who will create all the imagery for you.
Google sometimes shows an answer for the keyword that you use at the top of all other search results. This part of the search results has a few names:
- The “Answer Box” or “Position Zero” (by SEO’s)
- “Featured Snippet” (according to Google)
Google gets this information if your post has a short summary at the top of your article that is 375 characters or less. Check out Steve’s favorite resource on the short summary from SEOClarity.net.
The other thing that you want to do is to make this section something that you can easily share. That way people can just copy and paste your short summary answer to a social network giving your content the ability to spread.
Linking to Trustworthy Websites
Googlebot loves to crawl so give them links. But, make sure those links are pointing to trustworthy source.
Include links in your post to other related and trusted sites (such as links ending in .edu or .gov).
Link to Other Articles
Another way you can use linking is to link to articles you have already written. This is a great signal to readers letting them know what other relevant content you have written on a subject.
Google’s Rewards Fresh, Accurate Content
If you have watched the news in the last year, you have heard about the claims of “fake news.”
Google has posted that they reward posts that include Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
Questions To Ask If Your Content Has Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
If you think about it, Google’s policy is not really different than general media literacy. Michelle Ciulla, a media literacy educator, teaches people to ask these questions about any story they read:
- Is this fact, opinion or something else?
- Purpose of the message?
- Who made the message?
- What values are they communicating?
- What is missing from the message?
- How do different people interpret the message?
Google’s Content Standards
In a recent blog post published an article on their blog suggesting their standards for what is quality content.
Here is that list:
Content and Quality Questions
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
- If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
- Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
- Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
- Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
Presentation and Production Questions
- Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
- Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Boost Your Post’s Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness
Feature An Expert
One way to help boost the authority of your content is to have an expert contribute a quote to your story.
People love to be interviewed so just reach out and ask, “Can I interview you?” If you have a podcast, turn the interview into an episode.
Entertaining or Educational
When you are done with a draft, ask yourself if your post is going to be entertaining or educational. Another way to look at this is if your content will make someone happier or smarter.
If it isn’t, rethink if you should write the post.
Check For Plagiarism
Google doesn’t like to promote content that has already been written about. Makes sense, right?
Check to see if your content is original by using Copyscape’s free plagiarism tool.
You can also take 6-7 words and put that into Google using quotes around it and Google will show you if it thinks it is unique.
To do this, put the term in quotes:
Link to Your Bio
I am a real person and people connect with people.
It is important to put a link on your byline to your “about” page. Some authors also include a short bio at the bottom of the post so that people can learn about why you are qualified to write on certain topics.
If you want to be an authority on a topic, make sure your topics are mentioned in your author bio and on bylines wherever you are contributing or sharing content (Twitter, Facebook, etc). Here are some examples:
Avoid Being Spammy
To build trust, avoid sounding spammy avoid making any claims. I am sure you have seen blog posts with titles like, “Do this and you are guaranteed to rank on Google.”
While sensationalism gets a lot of clicks, in the long term being honest is the higher road to take.
Secure Your Website
Have you seen the lock next to a domain name?
What this means is that you have a site that has an SSL certificate and is them commonly known as “secure.”
Scammers usually don’t make their sites secure because it is their goal to steal your information.
Make Your Content Accessible
Remember that people with bad eyesight are also a part of your audience. Make your content easy to read by increasing the type size. For example, avoid making your content smaller than 16 pts.
From a technical perspective, use the em attribute instead of the px attribute.
SEO Tips After You Publish Your Blog Post
Submit Your Link To Google
Let Google know about your new blog post by going to Google Search Console and use the URL Inspection Tool on the left sidebar.
Before running my URL Inspection:
After running my URL Inspection:
Make sure that you put a link on your homepage to your new blog post.
A very simplified “why” behind this is that your homepage usually is the most popular page of your website. As a result the homepage will be assigned a high PageRank. So, if you link to your post from the homepage, some of that PageRank will flow to the new post.
Setup a Google Alert for your posts top keywords. When you get an alert, go to the website and post your short summary on the site in the alert.
Before you share your post on social media, check to see how your post will show up on Twitter and Facebook. For example, do your posts show your featured image (or just some random image)? Is the text compelling?
Links From Other Websites To Your Post
A big of a jedi mind trick here is that you want to see if other people will link to your new post without asking them.
Sounds confusing. I know…
A way to frame your request would be to use words like “reference this page…” Or, “if you would like to share this post as further reading, that would be great.”
The way to think about it is “are you giving them something of value that they would like to promote.”
The first place to start is to go back to anyone that you interviewed or asked for a quote and let them know that the post is now live.
Secondly, go onto Google and search for posts in the last month that are similar to your keyword.
Try and reach out to the authors of those posts and let them know about your post and see if it might add value to their posts.
A good goal is to see if three to five (3-5) websites will link to your post.
If your blog posts have advertisements, make sure that these are not “above the fold.”
Writing your posts in a way that Google can understand is a new skill. The next time you write, try to start with some keyword research and see how that improves traffic to your blog.
- Start with keyword research
- Write content that is entertaining or educational
- Create a blog post category with your most searched for keyword
- Add your next most searched keyword in your blog title
- Use an H1 with a popular keyword
- Create compelling Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
- Include a short summary
- Avoid the fake news filters
- Secure your website
- Link to your bio
- Do a plagiarism check
- Include original imagery
- Make your content accessible
- Link to other pages and trustworthy articles
- Submit your link to Google
- Add a link on your homepage
- Setup Google Alerts
- Share your post on Social Media
- See if people will link to your post
As this blog post starts to show up on Google, I will post how long it takes and how many people come to the site.