SEO for Blog Posts: The “All-You-Need-To-Know” Guide

You’ve been publishing new articles on your blog for a few months now, but the traffic from Google just won’t grow.

seo for blog posts guide

Don’t worry, this is a very common situation that bloggers are facing in the early days.

All you need is some proper knowledge on optimizing your blog posts for Google. And here’s a cool guide for you.

SEO? What?s that and why should I care?

Seo stands for “Search Engine Optimization?.

Anytime you’re doing something that improves your site’s ranking in Google, you’re doing SEO. Technically almost anything you do to improve your blog will help with rankings, but there are some small tricks you can do to bolster your rankings even further.

And these tricks will help you get on the first page of Google, which guarantees tons of traffic flooded your way.

But the question is, can SEO for blog posts really do this? Can it make any real difference to your traffic levels?

Take a look:

breakdown of traffic sources in Google Analytics

breakdown of traffic sources in Google Analytics

This is a pie chart for the traffic that?Photodoto?receives (the blog, that Tim was working on for about a year or so). You see that big blue piece? Those are the visitors that come from Google. That?s right, nearly 60% of all traffic is the result of being found in Google.

How was that accomplished?

Tim was able to grow Photodoto’s traffic from Google by 10-15% on a monthly basis just by using the simple SEO tactics shared below.

There are no ultra secret complicated techniques involved; just simple, clear, actionable tips that Photodoto writers were following without much extra effort.

Here’s how they did it.

SEO and Keyword Usage

The basis for search engine optimization lies in the “keywords” you use.

Keywords are the words/phrases visitors use when they?re searching for something in Google. For example, you might type ?winter sweaters? into Google to find some warm sweaters to wear. The keywords there are ?winter sweaters?.

Simple enough, right?

Keywords come in two general varieties, short and long.

Short-tail keywords

Short-tail keywords are phrases that are between 1-3 words long. These phrases are used by people who aren?t 100% sure of what they?re looking for. Usually they just need general information about something. Short-tail keywords are the most searched terms in Google.

Here are some examples of short-tail keywords that bring visitors to Photodoto:

referring keywords in google analytics report

these keywords seem to be bringing some very targetet visitors to Photodoto blog

Traffic’s pretty good, right? The only problem is that ranking on the first page of Google (the key to good traffic) is hard with short-tail keywords. That’s because lots of powerful high-quality websites will compete for them in Google.

It’s kind of a double-edged sword; you get more traffic with short-tail keywords, but actually ranking well for them is damn hard.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are phrases that are usually 3 or more words. People who use these keywords usually have a good idea of what they?re looking for. There are also far less people searching these terms overall.

Here’s a list of some of the long tail keywords that refer people to PhotoDoto blog:

list of long tail keywords from google analytics

these keywords bring one visitor each, but there are thousands of them

The cool thing that in most cases there’s almost no competition for each of these long tail keywords. This means you can rank for them easily with some of your articles. And as you rank for more of these keywords you get quite a decent combined traffic.

So which one should you focus on?

This picture sums up the difference between short and long tail keywords:

long tail keywords graph seo blog posts

see the difference between “short tail” and “long tail”?

On the one hand, shorter keywords bring you more traffic but are harder to rank for. On the other, long tail keywords bring less traffic but are easier to rank for, so you can just rank for them in bulk and get your combined traffic.

So which one is best?

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Optimize your website’s homepage and category pages for short tail keywords;
  2. Optimize your blog posts (individual articles) for long tail keywords.

This way people are more likely to run into your site for a keyword like “blogging tips”, while specific articles like “how to make a blog in 30 minutes” will attract specific searchers.

Curious to see how Tim was making Photodoto articles rank for long tail keywords:

google rankings for blog posts seo

want to know which software Tim used for generating this report? click here

As you can see, Tim was able to make his articles rank well for both short tail and long tail keywords, but that’s because he has quite an experience in SEO.

It is recommended that you optimize your articles for longer tail keywords and once you get results with it, aim higher.

Optimizing your posts for Google

SEO for blog posts requires two basic things:

  1. Knowing the right keywords
  2. Knowing where to put them in your article

That’s the so-called “On-Page SEO” in a nutshell. When you look at it like that, the process becomes much more simple and easy to understand.

Here’s a more elaborate version of that process:

  1. Brainstorm & Analyze your keywords
  2. Put your keywords to:
    – Headline;
    – Page title;
    – URL;
    – Written content;
    – Meta description.
  3. Optimize your images for Google

In order to make the whole process easier, we recommend you to download the following awesome plugin:?SEO by Yoast.

This plugin displays an SEO checklist right in your WordPress post editor, making it easy to see exactly what you have to do. Make sure and get it before moving forward with this guide.

Brainstorming & Analyzing the keyword ideas

When you?re trying to figure out what keywords will bring you traffic, you need to go somewhere to compare them. The best place for this is?Google Keyword Planner.?It?s free and accessible to all.

Google Keyword Planner

that’s what you get, once you open G.K.P.

First thing we?re going to need to do is find some potential keywords. Click on that ?search for new keyword and ad group ideas? link.

Once there, you?re going to need to brainstorm a few keyword phrases to help you figure out what?s going to work best for your article. Don?t worry too much about what you put, the point is to FIND what works, so just mess around with it.

Try to think of what keywords would describe your article best. And what keywords would you ideally use yourself in case you wanted to find this article.

google keyword planner keyword ideas

just a few random long-tail keywords for the sake of this article

I threw a few random ones up to show you how it all works.

You might also want to toggle the advanced settings:

google keyword planner advanced options

looks scary? then just don’t touch them, it’s fine

I like to leave them as is, unless I’m into some really hardcore keyword research.

Once you hit the blue “Get Ideas” button, the tool will show you the average amount of monthly searches those keywords receive:

google keyword ideas

doesn’t look too inspiring, right?

By the way, the term??competition? is misleading. It has nothing to do with how hard it is to rank in Google for this keyword/phrase. It?s strictly for advertisers, who buy Google ads for these keywords.

As you can see, two of the three key phrases show nothing. Those words don?t even have enough data to come up with an average, so most likely those words are bogus. Ignore them.

But we do see that the ?how to make a photography website? phrase has some searches. Let?s try out some variations:

additional google keyword ideas

now this looks better

Now you have an idea for how often those terms are searched, yet those aren?t very impressive numbers to be honest.

Let?s see what else we can get under the relevant keyword section:

keyword research

seems like a nice keyword

And that’s it! The core of keyword research is nothing more than a little guess and check. You?ve just got to type in some keywords that are relevant to your article and see what comes up, and from there you just keep clicking around till you find something that works.

Optimizing the post for Google

To maximize your chances of ranking in Google, you?ve got to put those keywords into certain spots.

Remember that SEO Yoast plugin I was recommending earlier? Here’s where it gets useful.

After installing SEO Yoast it?ll provide you with a checklist to confirm your article’s SEO status. It’ll look like this:

Yoast SEO Plugin Screenshot

this is how a perfectly optimized post looks like

Once you have your keywords, put them in the ?Focus Keyword? section. Then you just go through the list and make sure you?ve done everything. It’s a very straightforward process so don?t worry about being confused.

With that in place, following the rest of this article will be?much?easier.

1. Optimizing the Headline

First of all, you need to understand that there are two types of headlines.

  1. Viral headlines
  2. SEO headlines

The Viral Headline doesn?t really need SEO done to it. The point of a viral headline is to use psychological “triggers” to get quick attention and quickly spread through social media. It doesn’t rely on Google for most of its traffic.

The SEO Headline, however, is where keywords matter. Since we can?t expect all of our posts to ?go viral,? it?s important that we make sure they can bring in traffic some other way (meaning Google).

Even though kewords are mostly used in SEO-based headlines, there might be opportunities to sneak in a good keyword into a viral headline as well. If you can get away with it, do so.

Rule #1: use keywords EXACTLY as you find them.
If you break up a key phrase in any way, you?ve changed it. This will inevitably affect your rankings in Google.

If your keyword is ?How to Make Cookies?, here are your headline options:

  • Good: “Learn how to make cookies with this easy guide”.
  • Bad: “Learn how to make amazing cookies with this easy guide.”

Here?s the difference it can make:

seo for blog posts research

spot the difference?

Pretty big difference, right? Remember to keep your keywords the way you found them or you might lose out on a ton of traffic opportunities.

Rule #2: put the keyword phrase at the beginning of the headline.
Google gives more weight for headlines with keywords at the front, so make an effort to put them there.

  • Good: “How to make cookies: illustrated tutorial”.
  • Bad: “Illustrated tutorial on how to make cookies.”

Believe it or not, but the first headline will have much better chances of ranking in Google for “how to make cookies” keyword.

2. Optimizing the Title

In case your blog is running on WordPress, it will automatically generate a Title for your blog post out of the Headline. So let’s just not bother about this one.

3. Optimizing the URL

The URL of your article is also auto-generated from the headline that you put, but you can always make adjustments:

seo headline and url in wordpress

can you guess which keyword am I aiming for with this headline and URL?

And here’s the trick. Even if you did a viral headline like: “6 Easy Ways to Give your Photographs a Compelling Narrative” which doesn’t contain any good keywords for google:

another keyword research

we’ve got the leader!

…you can still make your URL something like:


…and hopefully the post will rank somewhere on the first page of Google for “compelling narrative”, since the content itself is very relevant.

TIP: In case your URLs don’t look that pretty, you might want to learn what is permalinks in WordPress.

4. Optimizing your Content

There?s no strict rules when it comes to optimizing the written portion of your content, just make sure to include your keywords every 300-400 words. And it also helps to include your keywords near the beginning and end of your articles.

And of course SEO Yoast Plugin will make sure that you have a healthy keyword count.

5. Optimizing the Meta Description

Putting the keywords into the Meta Description of your article does not directly influence its rankings in Google, but these words get highlighted when the person does a search in Google.

So I did a search for “famous photographers” and everywhere in the search snippet where this keyword was met, it was highlighted (this of course includes Meta Description):

famous photographers search snippet

a search result with lots of highlighted keywords catches the eye and gets more clicks

And besides, Google loves it when the page has a unique meta description. So this is a must.

Optimizing the Images for Google

Bad for you if you’ve missed a recent article by Tim on getting more SEO traffic from images on your blog, as he pretty much outlined the whole process.

But for a brief recap, here is where you should put the keyword:

  1. The image filename
  2. The alt tag

The image filename should be accurate and descriptive. For in most cases people use something like “IMG1234456.jpg”, which really means nothing (both to us and Google).

What you want to do is make sure that the image filename matches what you see on the picture. If it?s a fat woman holding a tuna, then that?s what it should say. That filename would look like this: ?fat-woman-holding-tuna.jpg?.

TIP: Use hyphens to separate the words in the image filename.

The alt tag should be given the same treatment. You can probably just use the same words as the image filename (no hyphens needed for the alt text though).

To sum it all up

There’s not much time and effort that you have to put into the SEO optimization of your articles, and the outcome is absolutely worth it.

Just always keep this checklist in mind:

  1. Brainstorm & Analyze your keywords
  2. Put your keywords to:
    – Headline;
    – Page title;
    – URL;
    – Written content;
    – Meta description.
  3. Optimize your images for Google

Now it’s your turn

That covers all the process of optimizing your articles for Google. It’s not too difficult, right?

Now you understand how SEO for blog posts works, but do your friends? Why not share this article with them? Cause SEO can be a real doozy for the SEO noob :)

PS: don’t forget to sign up for Tim Soulo’s free email course on growing the traffic of your blog, as he goes into even more detail of how to make Google love your articles.

Tim Soulo is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product Advisor at Ahrefs, a leading tool trusted by hundreds of thousands of SEOs and marketers worldwide. His SEO-related data research studies have been cited by media giants, including Inc, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat. He's also a regular speaker at some of the largest industry conferences around the globe, such as PubCon (US), BrightonSEO (UK), and the Digital Marketers Australia Conference (AU).