When we write, we always write for humans—that’s our first priority. But for humans to read them, they first have to find them. Search engine optimization (or SEO) reflects how credible and informative a source is on a subject. It should be a secondary goal of any blog post (after whatever the CTA is) to rank on the first page for that topic.
Related: What SEO Keywords Tell You
This can be daunting! Luckily, there are lots of tools out there to help. Here’s how to optimize your posts for SEO, step-by-step, once you’ve completed the hard part, which is writing:
Tool #1: Moz's Keyword Explorer
Choose a focus keyword based on the topic of your post.
There’s two types of keywords: broad and long-tail. Broad keywords would be something simple like “email,” vs. long-tail would be a full phrase to search like “event email marketing.” It’s more specific, targeted, and generally has more openings for us to win.
Log into keyword explorer and search the general topic you’re writing about.
What the tool tells you:
- Volume: is this something people are searching for?
- Difficulty: how competitive is this keyword?
- Opportunity/Potential: is there an opening for us? Is it worth pursuing this keyword?
Keyword suggestions can give you additional keywords or phrases that can better show how people are searching for the term. For instance, you might think to search, “adopting a puppy,” but what most people search is, “best rescue shelters.” Those don’t overlap! Keyword suggestions can help you choose the best combination of keywords.
SERP Analysis shows you which pages are currently ranked at the top for that keyword. Are they competitors? Are they partners? Is it third-party research? It can also show you if you already appear on the rankings.
Tool #2: Yoast SEO for Wordpress
Even though these instructions are Yoast-specific, the ideas hold true for whatever piece of content you're optimizing, even if it's in a different tool. These are all ways to add keywords in without necessarily ruining the readability or quality of your content.
First, take that keyword and type it into “focus keywords.” Then, a series of bullet points will appear with directions, including:
Adjust the title to be between 40-60 characters. Make sure the focus keyword is a part of the title, which can be different than the actual title of the blog post. Add a meta description that summarizes your post and includes the focus keyword.
Make sure you include the focus keyword in the first paragraph of your copy. If you chose a great focus keyword, then it should already be there. In this example below, the keyword chosen was “subject lines.” This is the first sentence—straight to the point.
Check the URL and make sure it’s readable and includes your focus keyword (note: once you publish it, you shouldn’t change it without a redirect).
Include at least one outbound link in your blog post (this should be easy, since we always include CTAs!). Add the focus keyword into the alt text of the featured image
Click on the image and edit the alt text before clicking “Ok.”
Sometimes, Yoast gets kind of finicky, and will give you a note that seems illogical or you know isn’t true (for example, in the post above, there are outbound links, but Yoast isn’t registering them). One example might be to include your keyword at the beginning of your title. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, that’s ok, too.
SEO is just one part of what makes a great post. The most important thing to keep in mind? Keep it human. Though we want to optimize our posts as best we can, it’s more important to maintain quality and readability for our audience.