It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are hundreds of legitimate major and minor tweaks absolutely anyone could make to a blog in order to improve its ranking on Google. In very simple words, the process of making these improvements can be referred to as SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
Okay, but why should I care? Why would I want to rank higher on Google?
Showing higher up on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) can bring a blog tons of quality, organic traffic. Minus the time and effort put into optimizing a site and its articles, organic traffic is essentially free and a great deal more predictable and consistent than traffic coming from social media.
But with the endless amount of information circulating about SEO, knowing where to start can feel pretty overwhelming. I’ve been there and done that.
Fortunately, I have a suggestion:
As a blogger, you are already writing posts for your site. That means that SEO strategies focused on fine-tuning how you are writing are actually a great place to begin. However, instead of tackling the topic from a strictly SEO point of view, we’ll be starting on familiar ground by looking at a handful effective writing strategies.
Many pre-writing and writing techniques that boost the quality of a text can also improve a post’s on-page SEO. Applying these writing strategies feeds two birds with one scone since you’ll produce a more engaging piece that’s also ready to be published and ranked online.
Okay, Ania. Who are you to tell me anything about writing?
That’s an absolutely valid question! I want to be completely transparent so you can be fully confident in the tips I’ll be sharing.
Beyond Snow to Seas, I’m a certified English teacher with years of teaching, writing, and editing experience. I’ve helped develop writing resources for University students alongside professors, proofread academic essays, and submitted pieces for publication in English textbooks in Sweden. Roughly 80% of my own monthly blog traffic is organic and comes from Google. I’m a huge fan of AHREFS Academy too (I cannot recommend their Blogging for Business course enough).
As for the super technical aspects of SEO, I’ll leave those to the experts at AHREFS, Yoast, and MOZ. All three sites have an infinite amount of FREE and super detailed resources available online.
Let’s dive into 5 strategies that will to improve the quality of your writing and your on-page SEO.
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But first: What’s On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO, also called on-site SEO, refers to reviewing and updating the actual content and HTML code on the various posts and pages of a site to make sure they are search engine friendly. On-page SEO strategies should typically be applied to a post before its publication. (This will save you A LOT of time in the long run). But you can rework old posts in order to optimize them too.
Now, if you’re using a content management system like WordPress for your blog, you don’t have to directly change any code. The formatting options available while writing a post, such as bolding or italicizing a piece of text, will pretty much take care of any of the code adjustments mentioned in this article.
Strategy 1: Define the purpose of your post and stick to it
Before you start writing, decide on the main point of your post and make sure that your title, headings, subheadings, and the content of your body paragraphs stay on topic and support your purpose. (We’ll be taking a closer look at headings and subheadings further on in this post).
As an example, if I’m writing a post about visiting Norway on a budget, I’d include subheadings about cheap things to do, affordable accommodations, budget-friendly transportation options, and so on. Even if I splurged on a 5-star hotel for 1 night or a show at Oslo’s Opera House and had an absolutely incredible time, I wouldn’t include it in the post because it just doesn’t fit the purpose of the article. I know it may feel really tempting to slide these details in. However, including them could do more harm than good. It’s a gamble.
Generally speaking, staying on topic will help anyone produce a more cohesive piece of writing. A focused text will also keep a reader more engaged than one jumping back and forth between tidbits of less relevant information.
As well, search engines, like Google, want to provide results that match a searcher’s intent/goal as much as possible. They want the top search results, especially the first one, to provide the search engine user with the exact information they’re looking for. If a post has too many irrelevant details leading to decreased user engagement, that could signal that the post does not satisfy a user’s goal causing the search engine to rank the post down.
Staying on topic can help your on-page SEO
IMPORTANT EXTRA TIP: Overall, there are only a handful of categories of “user intent”. Blog posts typically strive to meet a searcher’s need for information. When choosing the main topic of a blog post, make sure to plug it into a search engine and see what type of “intent” the current SERPs are aiming to satisfy. Do they align with the informational intent you had in mind? If not, you may want to consider changing your angle or approach.
To illustrate, Google “cheap car rentals in Norway.” All the results on the first page lead you to car rental companies such as AutoEurope and Sixt. There are no informational, blog-style posts on that first SERP. This suggests that when users look up this phrase, their usual intent is to make a transaction by booking a car. Writing a guide to finding cheap rentals in Norway will not match the most common intent behind the query. Most likely, the informational post won’t end up ranking well.
The Page 1 SERP for “cheap car rentals Norway.” They’re all car rental companies!
Strategy 2: Be thorough and specific
Building off of Strategy 1 above, one of the main goals of a blog post from a search engine’s point-of-view is to help people learn. As much as fulfilling the purpose of your article depends on staying focused, you also need to cover your topic in-depth and use specific details whenever you can.
From a writing strategies perspective, supporting examples and evidence prove the validity of your claim. Simply put, being thorough and specific can help you produce a stronger and more convincing text. A believable article can improve user engagement. (We already know that better engagement can work in your favour when aiming to rank higher on SERPs).
As well, when researching, users usually want to be able to find information that will be genuinely useful. Let’s go back to the example of writing a guide about visiting Norway on a budget. When covering affordable accommodation options, go beyond just stating that there are a handful of budget-friendly hostels across the country. Go deeper. Which cities and towns are the cheapest hostels located in? Which ones are the most affordable? What’s the lowest price per night? These direct details are a lot more applicable and therefore, satisfying.
Overall, expanding your claims with clear examples and evidence will give the reader more value and provide you the chance to position yourself as an authority on the topic too.
Strategy 3: Vary your vocabulary and avoid too much repetition
You can also improve your on-page SEO by using a wide range of vocabulary. Repetitive writing isn’t very exciting to read and can lead to decreased reader engagement. Too much repetition of your main keywords or keyphrases could lead to accidental keyword stuffing, which search engines penalize. (Keyword stuffing is the practice of filling up your post with your keyword(s)/keyphrase(s) in an attempt to rank higher. It doesn’t work and it’s considered spamming).
If you’re worried about ranking for a specific topic due to fewer mentions of your keyword or keyphrase, Google is pretty good at recognizing synonyms. As well, according to Yoast, a company that has been committed to providing SEO education for nearly 20 years, the keyword/keyphrase density in a post should only be between 0.5% to 3.5%. (Keyword/Keyphrase Density refers to how many times the phrase you’re aiming to rank for appears in your post vs. your total word count). If you’re using WordPress, Yoast’s FREE SEO plugin can calculate the keyword/keyphrase density of every single post you write.
For anyone struggling with changing up their vocabulary, remember that writing is a process. I know that trying to improve wording while working on your very first draft can lead to writer’s block and frustration. I recommend getting your thoughts down as they come. Take a closer look at your vocabulary when proofreading and revising your work!
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Strategy 4: Structure your text with paragraphs and headings
Compared to a giant block of text, a post broken down into smaller paragraphs with relevant subheadings is infinitely easier to read. A structured text also fits the needs of a wider range of readers. For example, one reader may stumble upon your post when they don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Headings give anyone in a pinch the opportunity to skim your text to get an idea of the information they’ll find. This could lead to them saving the post for a second, more thorough visit. A different reader may be on a quest to find a specific detail. Headings will make it possible to locate the information they need more efficiently. Overall, headings enable both humans and search engines to read and understand a post more easily.
A visual example showcasing breaking down a post into smaller paragraphs with relevant headings. Looks pretty manageable from a reader’s point of view.
A quick overview on using Headings
HTML has 6 different heading tags: <h1> through to <h6>. When you’re drafting a post on a content-management system such as WordPress, they appear in the formatting toolbar as Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 and so on. You can simply select which one you want to use from the dropdown options. No code changes required. Just take a look below:
WordPress’ “heading” dropdown menu. Yes, we have some post-ception going on here.
An h1 heading is the most important heading and is typically formatted to be the largest and most prominent. H2 is a little less important, followed by h3, then h4, etc. Some SEO experts like Neil Patel will say that h1s should only be used once per post as this tag is commonly understood to suggest the main topic of an article. Too many h1s could undermine the importance of one another when you want to keep your main point or keyphrase clear.
Strategy 5: Add alt text to images
This isn’t a traditional writing strategy per se, but adding alternative text to your images is pretty darn important. Alt text is essentially a written phrase describing an image if the visual fails to load. Adding alt text also provides anyone with a visual impairment the opportunity to understand the content of your images.
You can add these descriptions to the image’s HTML code, but as always, content managers have our backs. When uploading an image to your post, you’ll have the option of adding alt text before inserting it into your article.
WordPress’ Media Library gives users the opportunity to add in their alt text
Accurate and descriptive alt tags in combination with appropriate image file names can also help search engines get an idea of what your images contain. In turn, this may help your images rank higher on Google Image SERPs, which can bring you more site traffic.
For more details about writing effective alt text, you can check out Google’s very own guide to images.
I’ll admit that I have a bit of a research addiction… It may be why I find SEO so fascinating.
I definitely won’t be the first to admit that you could devote years of learning to SEO (even just on-page SEO). Thousands upon thousands of words can be dedicated to writing about the topic too. I may be at the beginning of my journey, but I’m committed to sharing the strategies that have worked for me. Hopefully, some of you will find them useful too!
Do you have questions? Any additional tips? Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!