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How to Optimize a Blog for SEO [CHECKLIST]

Giulianno Lopez

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

The competition for new customers has ratcheted up to new heights, and direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands aren’t standing idly by. According to estimates by eMarketer, digital ad spend is projected to increase by 17% in 2020 — totaling $151 billion. As more and more D2C brands flood the market, marketers have looked to gain any competitive edge at their disposal, specifically when it comes to building brand awareness. As a result, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a growing priority for D2C brands spanning vertical and industry. There are plenty of reasons why.

For one, an SEO strategy helps drive more organic traffic, which refers to website traffic that comes from search results from the likes of Bing and Google. Organic traffic is often referred to as free traffic since paid ads aren't used to capture website visitors. More directly, SEO provides one of the most cost-effective methods for boosting brand awareness. There are plenty of free and inexpensive platforms and tools, like Ubersuggest and Google Analytics, that are great for those who are just getting started.

So, how do you build a proper SEO strategy? By ramping up your content production. Posting blogs is essential to building authority on specific keywords that are relevant to a D2C brand and their products. But it’s more than just publishing dozens and dozens of blog posts per month — quality counts. One quality blog post will have more of an impact than ten mediocre ones. Writing for quality is one thing; writing with an SEO strategy in mind is another thing entirely. So, how do you optimize a blog for SEO? Let’s go over a few of the basic steps that D2C brands should take.

Are you looking to optimize a blog for SEO? Download this checklist — it will help keep you on track.

Conduct Focus Keyword Research

A focus keyword is a word that a business targets to rank for on search engines and is related to that business in some capacity. For example, a D2C brand that sells flowers may want to rank for words like, “flower bouquets.” The keywords should be closely tied to a business' products. 

Marketers should be familiar with long-tail and short-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords typically consist of a string of three or more words that complete a phrase. More specific in nature, long-tail keywords tend to be easier to rank for since there is less competition for them despite their lower search volumes. Short-tail keywords are usually one to two words and tend to be more broad and general. As a result, this type of keyword has a larger search volume but tends to produce a lower click-through rate (CTR).

When conducting keyword research, D2C brands should think about what words their target audiences would search for and check if competitors are ranking for them. There are SEO tools available, like SEMRush and Moz, that can give in-depth analysis for keywords. Once a short-tail or long-tail keyword has been chosen, a brand can begin to optimize a blog for SEO.

Create a Scannable Structure

When building the outline for a blog, make sure to use proper header tags (<H1>, <H2>, <H3>, etc.) for the headings to help illustrate the blog's structure. Following this type of text structure not only improves the readability of a blog but also makes it easier for search engines, like Google, to pick up on the main topics discussed in a blog post.

If you're using a platform like WordPress to publish blog content, you may have noticed that there multiple headings in various sizes. Heading 1 is the largest and most important, and Heading 6 is the smallest and least important.

Heading Examples in WordPress

Headings in WordPress

When these headings are converted into HTML tags, they show up as `<h1>`, `<h2>`, and so on. This is why headings are referred to as an H1, H2... you get the idea. For reference, here's an example of an outline for a blog post I wrote recently:

<H1>Increase Website Traffic: How to Do It Without Breaking the Bank<H1>

    1. Website traffic indicates the health of a brand
    2. Stat that highlights the importance of increasing website traffic

<H2>Adopt a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy<H2>

    1. Definition of SEO
    2. How to get started with SEO

<H3>Keyword Research<H3>

    1. Definition of keyword research
    2. An example

<H2>Ramp Up Content Production<H2>

    1. How content helps increase website traffic
    2. Tips for writing a blog

<H2>Share Content on Social Media<H2>

    1. How social platforms help increase website traffic
    2. Tips for using each platform

After this step comes the fun part — writing the actual blog.

Consider the Word Count

In order for a blog post to rank on search engines, they must contain a minimum of 300 words. Now, it can be challenging to offer enough insights with so few words. That's why it's recommended to reach at least 1,000 words per blog. Google is built specifically to provide their users with the best results possible, meaning that longer posts have a higher likelihood of containing better and more comprehensive insights. Posts with over 1,500 words tend to perform the best overall. Word count should be a top consideration when you’re trying to optimize a blog for SEO.

Sprinkle Keywords Throughout

A crucial element to optimizing a blog for SEO is keyword density, which is the amount times a keyword shows up on a page. It's calculated by dividing the number of times a keyword shows up on a page by the overall world count:

Number of times a keyword appears on a page / Total word count = Keyword density

There's no magic number or concrete answer to the right percentage of keyword density, but it's generally advised that a keyword should show up between 1-3% of the time in a post. It's also crucial not to get overzealous and to overdo it either. Google punishes posts where keyword stuffing is suspected. If possible, make sure to include the keywords in the first paragraph of a post and at least one higher-level subheader.

Add External and Internal Links

It may sound counterintuitive to link out to other websites, but external linking can pay huge dividends. Outbound linking is the practice of including links to other publications or websites that rank for a topic covered in a blog post. While it's not good practice to hyperlink focus keywords, it's ideal to hyperlink terms or phrases that are related to them.

Internal linking occurs when a webpage links out to other pages on the same domain. This form of linking helps build page authority and improve the search engine rankings throughout an entire website. We advise adding two to three external and internal links to each post unless more links are required.

Write an SEO-Friendly Meta Description and Title Tags

A meta description is the preview text that summarizes the content of a web page on the search engine results page (SERP). Google will typically show webpages that have search-for words in the meta description, so it's crucial to always include the post’s chosen keywords. Additionally, be sure to add a call to action (CTA), such as "Learn more."

optimize a blog for seo

Sample Google Search

A title tag is the blue headline link that appears above the meta description. An ideal title contains 55 to 60 characters, naturally incorporates the focus keywords, and has enticing language. A strong title can help improve a post's ranking on the SERPs.

Don’t Forget to Add Images

Including relevant and engaging imagery to a blog helps create a better experience for readers and adds incremental value from an SEO perspective. The popularity of Google Images continues to grow, and with that brings another channel that can capture more organic traffic. All imagery within a blog should have alternative text (alt text) that only includes focus keywords when applicable.

Looking to optimize a blog for SEO? Download this checklist and just follow each of the steps.

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