How to optimise your blog content for search engines AND customers

12 August, 2014

Flickr Image Courtesy Seattle Municipal ServiceThe old-timey ‘speak to a real guy in a shop’ method of customer service is gone.

We research online.

If we want to find out something about a company, we go to their website. If we are researching a problem, we might download an ebook or sign up to a webinar. If we are interested in a topic, we might come across a blog post. If we are interested in a product, we’ll look for reviews or features and benefits.

We get that people do these things. Regularly. So if our business can be there with blog content to help them, we’ve got a much better chance of gaining their trust and their purchase.

That’s why content marketing is now so crucial.

But, you still need to make sure your customer can find your content.

Creating phenomenal content for your customers is the hardest part. But once you have this done, you need to make sure you optimise your blog content for search engines.

Here’s a quick, practical guide to help you optimise your blog posts to improve your rankings and your customer’s experience.

We’ll take you through the best way to optimise your headlines, titles, URL’s, meta descriptions, links and images for your blog content. You’ll find some nice content marketing pointers along the way.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we…

Writing Headings

Headlines matter. They are one of Google’s critical indicators of your content.

More importantly, headlines are the first part of your content that your audience sees.

When coming up with a title for your blog post, be sure to pick something engaging and interesting that also uses your keywords. By doing so, you’ll use your keywords in a really important place on the page – the heading. You want your content to stand out to your customer and Google.

Flickr Image Courtesy Stew Dean

Remember, customer first, content second headline third. Then Google fourth.

Lots of traffic from a clickbait headline isn’t fooling Google anymore.

If your content doesn’t delight your audience and deliver on your expectations, the very reader you’ve enticed will prompt Google to penalise you. Make sure you check out our post on resisting the urge of the clickbait headline and concentrating on creating content your customer will love.

The article headline explains things well

Clickbait Headlines (sorry, I put all of my effort into the content)

The gist? You need to send your love to the paragraph, not the title.

If you’re creating content to build a sustainable community of loyal customers, here’s your priority list:

#1 – work out what your customers are interested in

#2 – put your time and energy into creating the best possible content

#3 – give your love to the paragraph

#4 – create a headline that shows your audience why they should care

#5 – triple-check that your content over-delivers on your headline’s promise

#6 – optimise your content and your headline for search engine results

Optimising Your Page Headings

In the context of SEO, it’s easy to optimise your headlines to help increase your search engine referrals.

Headings help to tell search engines what your page is all about. They nudge Google to display your content for the terms you use.

Heading 1, or your ‘H1’ heading refers to the H1 meta tag that accompanies your text in the source code (the techie HTML stuff that always seems like a foreign language). You should have only one H1 tag per page, otherwise, things get confusing.

Heading 2 or ‘H2’ is the second most important heading on the page. It is ok to use multiple h2 headings for your primary subheadings. If the level of importance for your headings decreases, use the lower heading tags (h3 to h6).

Optimising Your Page Title

If you’ve done a good job of naming your blog post as we discussed in the headings section, you’ll be well on your way to optimising your page title too.

Most of the time the topic of your blog post will also be used as the page title of the page. The page title is close to the most important element for optimising your page – that’s why it’s so important to include your keywords here.

You can also tack on the title of your website to give your brand some Google exposure too. So if your blog post title is “How to keep your bananas fresh for longer” and your website is Buy Bananas Online, then you have yourself a questionable (but gorilla friendly) business. You need all the help you can get to sell those bananas online.

So, to help you boost your post and your brand’s rankings, your page title should be:

How to keep your bananas fresh for longer | Buy Bananas Online

Whatever you do, remember our golden rule: Customer first, Google second.

Make sure your title is appealing to your readers before you think about optimising for search. If you want customers to visit, you need to look approachable.

Flickr Image Courtesy Cerulean5000

Optimising Your URL

Your URL is like the spine title of your book poking out to Google as it searches through its library of information on your topic. Your URL also helps your potential website visitors. If your URL is easy to read and relates directly to their search, people are more likely to click through to your page from their search results. Here are some nifty tips for getting your URLs SEO friendly:

  • Use your keywords (are you getting the picture now?)
  • Use hyphens for spaces (not underscores or joined words)
  • Don’t use super long URLs
  • Don’t let your CMS make them messy with %, $,= or other signs

Flickr Image Courtesy Woody Hibbard

Focus on creating astonishingly helpful content for your potential customer. Your URL, Page Titles and Headings come later. If you set a huge expectation with the reader, make sure your blog post content delivers.

If your page title is “Everything you’ll ever need to know about growing bananas”, you’ll want to have more than a couple of dot points on banana tree seeds in your article. Otherwise, your reader will leave in a haze of banana-growing confusion and irritation.

You don’t want to be this guy:

If the time spent on your page is particularly low, you’re doing yourself no favours! Think customers, not pageviews!

We can all make empty headline promises. The paragraph is the hard bit. Back up your Wolf of Buzzfeed headlines with real paragraphs. Good ones preferably. Hat tip to Jay Acunzo for the super doodle. His Sorry For Marketing blog apologises for everything that’s wrong with our industry – including clickbait. Check out his one-man crusade to bring the love back to the paragraph.

Image Courtesy Sorry For Marketing Blog

Optimising Your Meta Description

The meta description sits below your page title and URL in search engine results. This doesn’t have an impact on search rankings but it does help you attract more visitors to your site.

The meta description is like a call to action to tell your searcher why they should click on your listing.

Here’s how we do it, incorporating the keywords “best eCommerce podcasts”.

Pretty sharp, if I do say so myself.

How We Optimise Meta Descriptions

Optimising Your Article Length

There is no perfect length for a blog article. If you can deliver one sentence of text that achieves the conversion goal of your content (and delights your customer), go for it.

Infographics are a good example. Often an infographic blog post includes no more than a brief description.

If the content is valuable enough for the reader, your post will still rank better than a less useful 2000 word article on the same topic.

Amongst the slew of unremarkable ‘clickbait’ blog posts and ‘snackable’ short-form content, detailed long-form articles stand out.

If you create an exhaustive, in-depth piece that provides a unique or new perspective, Google and your readers are likely to sit up and take notice.

Recent research from SERPIQ analysed the top 10 search results for over 20,000 search terms. The results suggested that top-ranking web pages average over 2,000 words.

Image Courtesy Serpiq

Your post can become the go-to resource on your topic. Other high authority blogs and writers start to link to your content when referring to your topic and readers begin to share your work on social media.

If your content is helpful, entertaining or interesting enough, go ahead and keep on writing until you get wrist cramps.

Remember, Google wants to show people the most valuable and relevant info. It might be 10 words or 10,000 but always think quality 1st.

Optimising Your Links

There are two types of links – internal links and external links.

We’ll let the image explain to stop us from getting into boring SEO tech terminology:

The Difference Between Internal Links And External Links

Internal Linking

Whenever you write a new article, add links to relevant pages or other posts on your site. If you touch on something you’ve described in another post, give the reader a chance to check it out.

This encourages visitors to spend more time on your site and find more of your helpful, educational and entertaining content. They might even buy some stuff.

Don’t go spewing links for the sake of it. You’ll only achieve a rankings benefit if your reader achieves a benefit.

You’ll learn to use your archived posts as an idea generator for future posts. You can create a web of info about a certain topic, sending the reader on a journey from unaware, to interested, to trusting, and finally (the holy eCommerce grail) to loyal.

External Linking

Using links to important information sources on other sites throughout your blog posts adds value for your reader.

Sure, these links prompt readers to leave your site, but your audience will appreciate the additional info and resources that you share. They start to trust you as a gatekeeper and return for your advice on the best sources of related info.

Make sure any links you add are formatted to ‘open in a new window’ within your content management system (this ensures your post is still open in their browser and the external link pops up in a new tab).

Give the writer or author of the linked content a shout out on social media or email to let them know you have shared their work. You might kick start a new relationship, or even better, the influencer may share your content with their social media audience. cue new potential subscribers!

Just remember (sorry to nag), customer first, Google second. Lots and lots of internal or external links are not a good idea if they are not helpful for your audience.

Use Links For Your Customers Not For Seo

Optimising your Images

Friends, you’re in luck. We’ve just finished an entire article about the benefits that clever use of images can bring to your customers, your search engine results and eventually, your bottom line.

Make you check it out, there are some super practical tips and a bunch of insights from an eCommerce content marketing expert.

If that hasn’t piqued your interest, there’s also a number of images showcasing half-naked, fit youths. For the purposes of online marketing education of course. Here’s a teaser…

Images Courtesy Frank Body

Optimising what goes on the page

That’s the hard part. Creating quality content is a whole other story.

A good starting point? Have a read of this article on the 2 most important parts of your content marketing strategy. If you’re still lost, just work hard on creating content your customers love.

Or, if you want some more detail, get amongst our free eCommerce content optimisation guide. We go through the basics you need to help your increase your Google rankings position and we help you out with the foundations of a winning content creation and promotion strategy. All the info is specifically tailored to help you with your online store. You’ll be meeting more customers with your content in a jiffy (I’ve self-determined a jiffy to be a period somewhere in between one year and one day…)

Go on. Download your free guide. Read it. Learn eCommerce marketing lessons. Use our practical advice. Meet more customers. Keep more customers. Make more online sales. Earn more profit. Receive hugs from your boss. Bask in the glory. Thank us.

What was that I said about setting realistic expectations…

By Scott Evans
As co-founder and Director of Gorilla 360, Scott has spent the last 12 years helping businesses grow through smart digital marketing.
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