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Blog Publishing Best Practices for SEO in 2020

Blog best practices

Blog Publishing Best Practices for SEO in 2020

SEO for blog posts is part art, part luck and part science. The first thing to note is that SEO competition in 2020 is extreme, so quite often content which has a ‘low barrier to entry’ (in terms of production) fails to scoop up large amounts of Google traffic. Anyone who knows how to use Microsoft Word, can quickly learn to log-in to a website’s CMS and publish online

Due to this, if you still want to write effective blog posts in 2020, your work must be a ‘cut above’ the competition. Even this will not guarantee free traffic from Google, but it’s enough to begin ‘playing the game’ of SEO. A solid, well-researched blog post isn’t an interactive infographic, offer comparison engine or a handy calculator – but it can still perform well. The trick is to target a spread of keywords: one larger keyword (which sets the topic of your post) and 5-10 smaller ones (from 60 to 600 monthly Google searches)

Once you produce enough ‘table-stakes’ content; Google will begin to rank some of it, especially if the content is picked up and cited online, through editorial links from authoritative sources. Publishing posts which rank well on Google, is a blend of quality production and is also a numbers game. You need to produce and publish well-researched, shareable pieces of content often – whilst not skimping on article quality

If you can embed rich media (images, videos, interactive guides, calculators to help solve a problem) within your post – then it will perform better. Remember that content is anything which a web-user can digitally digest, so you’re not limited to ‘just text’

Your post must be:

  • Authoritative
  • Shareable
  • Interesting
  • Well-researched
  • Trustworthy (so be sure to embed citations)
  • Popular online (well-linked, from an editorial perspective)
  • Of a reasonable length (I personally think 800 words is reasonable)
  • Tightly-bound from a search-entity perspective (pick your topic, really break it down and discuss sub-topics – but don’t try and write about everything!)

It sounds very simple, but if you’ve ever asked someone how to optimize blog posts for SEO (and received a less than concrete answer) – you’ll know that the truth is more complex. That is what separates the raw ingredients for success, from the art and authorship of the practice


Step 1 – Have an Editorially Viable Idea (Topic)

This is by far and away the most important step in the blog post publishing process. You need to write something unique. A piece of content which the web is currently missing (which people need and care about)

Maybe you’re writing about a hot topic or web-trend which people are searching for furiously; but what will make your post stand out? If current posts discussing the topic seem fragmented, then maybe you can cite those and draw their comments together in a way that binds (and cements) the overall narrative

If you or your client has access to shareable, non-sensitive data which can bring new insight to the conversation – share it! Help to advance the web’s understanding of the topic which you are discussing in some way, don’t just spout opinions

Due to the temporal nature of how blog posts rank on Google (usually they will have a window of ranking viability, which degrades as they get older – unless the post becomes super-popular) it’s advisable to write about unfolding web-trends

There are tools with which you can evaluate Google web-trends for free (such as Google Trends), but they all utilise retrospective data (none of them predict the future accurately). As such, I’ve always felt that good old-fashioned journalistic instinct is majorly underrated. If you have journalistic tendencies (you’re always the first of your friends to know what’s going on in the world, or on social media) then you already have the tools you need. If you’re not a bit of a journalist, maybe delegate post-writing to someone more familiar with that world

You need to come up with a post idea which:

  • Connects with keywords which users search for, or will soon be searching for
  • Connects with topics which people care about now
  • Adds some unique value to the web
  • Is highly shareable. If a post is incredible from a quality perspective, but no one really cares to share it, the post won’t go viral socially or through search

This is the hardest step in the blog post production process. Sometimes you will believe you have nailed this, only to discover that your sociological evaluation of unfolding trends was biased and incorrect. It happens! If this step fails, the post will fail

It’s very important to pump out and produce a lot of content, purely because this step is so hard. There are very few authors who can nail this even 50% of the time. Don’t get disappointed if three in four posts fail to achieve popularity; as stated blog post production is a numbers game. Writing a winning post is almost as hard as coming up with an idea for a new business. Finding a gap in the web’s content to reach an audience, is like finding a gap in the market for a new product

If a number of your posts fail to gain traction, it just means that this first and hardest step was misjudged. Believe it or not, accurately judging the psychology of web-audiences on a national or international level is really hard. If some of your posts don’t make it, it doesn’t mean that you suck or that your writing is poor. It’s either a case of wrong time wrong placement, or it could mean that the site which you are posting on isn’t trusted much by Google (largely beyond your direct control)

Largely speaking, there’s little difference between asking “how to write SEO friendly blog posts” and asking “how to write posts which humans will read, share and find useful”. When you publish a post and it does get picked up, you’ll know that it was your research and authorship skills which brought in extra traffic. That’s something you can be proud of!

Step 2 – Research Your Post

Keyword research forms a part of this, but researching your post and topic is much more extensive. In terms of finding keywords to embed, I prefer to use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. All you have to do is enter a list of seed keywords:

Ahrefs Seed Keywords

I then like to move to the “Having same terms” list to find some keyword opportunities:

Ahrefs Same Term Keywords

Blend some keywords into your blog post but don’t shoehorn them in at the cost of content quality. Only place the relevant keywords into your post, where they logically fit your narrative. Don’t disrupt the overall flow of writing for the sake of keyword inclusions. Bonus points if you can include whole keywords (sensibly) in H1, H2 or H3 tags (any well-written post should contain sub-headings and sections)

In the back-end of your CMS, you may see fields related to SEO which can be filled. One is the Page Title, sometimes also referred to as the Meta title. This defines the text which will sit inside of your <title> tags in the page’s HTML

The content inside of <title> will appear as browser tab text:

Title Meta Tag Text

This snippet of text can also appear as a Google SERP (Search Engine Ranking Position) snippet title:

Google Snippet Title

A title should be around 60 characters and should be keyword optimised

You may also find an area to amend your Meta description, which produces something like this in the source-code of your post:

Meta Description HTML

This doesn’t visibly appear for users when browsing your site, but it can be chosen to act as Google’s snippet of search text:

Google Snippet Description

Google don’t really utilise the Meta description to weight the rankings for your posts and pages, but that doesn’t mean the tag has no value. If you can get Google to utilise text from this field (as the SERP snippet description) which is compelling and well-written, users may choose your search result over results which are higher up

Meta descriptions shouldn’t be overly keyword-optimised, instead they should strike a balance between describing the page and acting as organic ad-text. If you write something too self-promotional and spammy, Google won’t use your text. If you strike the balance correctly, you can sweep up some extra traffic (without getting greedy) for a minimal time investment

If you’re using WordPress (or another CMS which supports post tags) then you can deploy keywords as tags to further optimise your post. As far as ‘actual’ categories go, try to list your post in a single best-fitting category. If no category fits your post properly, consider creating a new on (and potentially keyword optimising the category as well)

You may see a Meta keywords field in your CMS. Rest assured that there’s no need to fill this in, as Google don’t use this field to weight webpages in 2020. Apparently some niche search-engines still use the field, but I have never personally seen much traffic as evidence of this. In my mind, I’d rather keep this field blank so that competitors can’t scrape my keyword research

Beyond keyword research, don’t forget to actually research your topic and post title. Pitch it to your colleagues or peers – would they be interested in reading the post? Do they have anything to add which you could quote in your article as a citation? Is your idea adding unique value to the web? If so, define that value. How shareable is your content idea? Where will it be placed, where will the content get its kick-off audience and interactions? Is the content aimed at social, search or both? How does the content cater to defined audiences (audience research is a must!)

This is a good time to revisit Step 1 and make your research in that area more tangible and concrete. What data can you include in your post? Can you cite the data? Is it internal or from elsewhere on the web? These are all questions you need to be asking (and citations which you need to be committing)

Step 3 – Arrange Digital PR if Required

Quite often you’ll be posting on sites or blogs which don’t currently have a solid audience (hence your skills are needed). Due to this, there’s a high probability that even great and shareable content may fall flat on its face, if it’s never discovered

Think about sharing your post with your friends if they might find it interesting. Do you know and editors? Pitch the ‘story’ of the content to them, ask if they might share a cut down version of the story and cite your original article and research materials (with an SEO-friendly, editorial hyperlink)

Does the site which you are posting on engage in email marketing, do they have a solid list to send their newsletter out to? Get your content scheduled to be posted on the next email. Does the site which you are posting on have social media profiles with a good following, or partnerships with other organisations which do? Make strong use of those connections

All of this should be scheduled to occur before your post goes live, if you are well-organised. Most CMS (like WordPress) will tell you what the hyperlink of your post will be before you actually publish the post. Copy that down so that your connections know which URL to share, and crucially when to share it

I’m really more of an analyst and an optimizer rather than a Digital PR professional, but I do know that content often needs a bit of a kick-off to reach a wider audience. The key message? Get the word out

Step 4 – Publish your Post and Notify your PR Contacts

The final step is to set your post live and notify your contacts that your post has gone live. Immediately your Digital PR kick-off should commence. All being well, your content will gain traction and pick up lucrative search traffic. Often you will see social traffic come in first, which acts as a bit of an indicator

If your post ends up flopping, don’t worry: keep calm and carry on. Remember that blog-posting is a numbers game. Without sufficient quality, your posts won’t gain traction – but even with high editorial standards, posts can fail. When people log-on to the web, they have pre-conceived notions about their web-browsing activities. You’re challenging those notions and directly competing for their attention

Writing successful blog posts in 2020 can be very hard work and may involve more than one author (where additional expertise or information is required), that being said; publishing posts online can still be worth it with the right standards and work-ethic

Don’t forget to monitor traffic to your post(s) using a suite like Google Analytics or Adobe Omniture. If you end up with a success story to shout about, you don’t want to miss it

Written by

SEO & digital marketing specialist of nearly 10 years. A master of Google Data Studio, XPath and more. Applied data-driven analysis, to increase revenue and on-site conversions. Architecting information, to bring you closer to your online audience!

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