How to Write a Blog Post for Optimal SEO

When I was working for a tech company a few years ago, I was asked to write weekly blog posts. The client loved the first post I wrote. The third-party marketing expert the client was contracting at the time had some additional feedback about how to write a blog post for optimal SEO (search engine optimization). Here’s what I learned from him.

Where the SEO Should Go

To appease Google Almighty, you must write a post that’s about what you say it’s about, and title it according to the content. (Or write the content according to the title if that’s how you write. Either way is fine, just make sure the title of the post accurately reflects the content and vice versa.) If you do this consistently, Google will remember that you are a faithful follower, and continue to reward you with even higher search rankings.

There are six key areas of a blog post that increase the post’s ability to appear high and often in search results:

  1. Focus Keyword
  2. Pick the main keyphrase that the post is about. Likely it will include some of the exact sequence of words found in the title.

  3. Meta Description
  4. This is the text under the title in a search result. It helps inform the reader about the relevance of this post to what they’re searching for. In order for this to be used effectively, the exact focus keyword/keyphrase you’ve should be in here.

  5. SEO/Blog Post Title
  6. You can completely customize the URL of a blog post. Meaning it should be SEO candy. It should inform the reader exactly what to expect in the blog post. Try to use words and phrases that readers would actually type into a Google search.

  7. Subheadings (H2 tags and H3 tags primarily)
  8. The H2 and H3 tags are your subheading tags within the post. These are excellent sources of SEO. They can include your focus keyphrase or additional information about your topic that lends credibility to your knowledge of the subject (Google loves you), and also helps break up the text and locate the reader within the post. It makes for a much more enjoyable reading experience (readers love you). Here’s more on the differences.

  9. Content of the Post
  10. If the title of the post accurately reflects the content, the exact same sequence of words that appear in the title should also appear in the body of the post. Similar variations of the word sequence should also appear, but not too many. Google has made overloading keywords into a post a punishable offense (i.e. you fall from grace and your blog and website are no longer held in favor).

  11. Image Descriptions/Captions
  12. If you’re inserting an image into a blog post (which is usually always an excellent addition to a post) be sure to add a relevant, keyword-rich description on the backend (for sure) and a relevant, keyword-rich caption on the reader-facing side (if it’s right for the post). These are opportunities to insert evermore keywords into your post, AND if your image doesn’t show up for some reason (weird server stuff, broken link, etc.) at least the description of the image will appear, and your reader will know what it’s supposed to be.

A Blog Post is Not an Article

Blog posts should not be written like articles (i.e. text, text, and more text with no subheadings). The established blogging format is to have multiple headings (H2 or H3) throughout the post–one every two-three paragraphs will do. As mentioned earlier, these headings should contain keywords and sum up the copy that follows (like little newspaper headlines). Google is looking at these for clues as to what the content is about.

How to Know if You’ve Got Good SEO

There are a number of plugins you can install that will support your SEO efforts. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Yoast: a WordPress SEO plugin. It’s what we use to optimize the CC: PDX blog posts and it basically holds your hand through each post: telling you what’s wrong, how you can improve it, and how your posts rate.
To give you an idea of how helpful Yoast (and I’m sure other plugins are great too) is to a blogger, here’s what the backend looks like:

Yoast SEO Manager

Yoast SEO Manager

It puts all the SEO boxes you need to fill in all in one place. It even tells you how well you did using the focus keyword/keyphrase. If you missed something, those green yes’s would be red no’s. This is great because it allows you to tweak your content until you hit the right SEO sweet spot.

Yoast SEO Page Analysis

Yoast SEO Page Analysis

The Page Analysis tab gives you a more detailed description of what you’ve done well in the post and what you could improve upon. This post has more green lights than orange and red. Success! That’s good enough for us. If you’re a perfectionist who needs to hit green on everything every time…Yoast can help you get there.

The Benefits of SEO

All this search engine optimization of your blog posts helps increase the audience who’ll read them. What you want is for Google to know what the post is specifically about, and decide that your post is high quality enough to return it in the results of a visitor’s keyword search.

A few other SEO things I didn’t touch on are the tags and categories you can add to the backend of your posts, and keyword research tools like Google AdWords. Do explore these areas.

A Word About Yoast

In addition to being an awesome WordPress plugin, Yoast also has a robust blog that goes in depth about each of the areas we discussed above and much much more about SEO. If you’re using WordPress, my best advice is to install Yoast, blog, and learn by experimentation. There’s an art to blogging, but there’s also a science to it. The more you know about both sides of the coin, the more powerful a blogger you’ll be. (And no, I’m not a Yoast affiliate. Just a true believer.)

Is there anything else about blog post SEO that should be included here? SEO hacks, useful articles, tools, or resources?

Untangle Your Freelancing Money Knots

The Copywriter Conclave of Portland will host its first event of 2015 on Thursday, February 5th at Forge Portland.  The event features Shell Tain, a veteran life coach and money knot “untangler.”

Untangle Your Freelancing Money Knots

Shell Tain

The event is designed for Portland freelancers and business owners, helping to untangle the “money knots” we find ourselves in.  Some examples would include what to charge prospects (or even regular clients), how to negotiate more effectively, and how to avoid the feast/famine work cycle.

Below is a brief Q&A with CCPDX President Amber James on why Shell Tain’s event is sponsored by CCPDX.

What led to requesting Shell Tain as the presenter for CCPDX’s first event of 2015?

A while back I asked our members to share ideas for event speakers. Member Sheila Ashdown knew of Shell Tain and recommended her. Considering the work Shell does (helping people live better lives by unpacking and overcoming their hang-ups around money), she’s a perfect speaker for the Conclave and for all the self-employed professionals in Portland.

What “money knots” do you notice freelancers running into?

There are only a few, but they’re biggies: the ability to set competitive rates and stick to them, giving yourself a well-deserved raise, and negotiating contracts with confidence. For the most part, we’ve been trained to be very polite and accommodating, to not fight over money or push back too hard when someone want to pay us less. That’s a bad habit for a self-employed professional because if you don’t get paid, [your business] can’t thrive.

How do you think this event can help the freelance community in Portland?

This event will do two primary things:

1) Give freelancers permission to question their money habits and thoughts around money; and

2) Make them aware of Shell, and the services and advice she has to offer the community. Portland has a wealth of freelance resources and educational professionals ready to assist. Shell is one of them, and I’m extremely excited to learn from her.


Want to meet Shell Tain, The Untangler?

Register here for the event

5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 5th

Free food and libations

Easy access to bike racks and nearby parking lots and garages

The Value of Freelance Content Creators

Value. Our friends at Merriam-Webster note that “value” can mean utility or importance; a fair return on goods or services; and something intrinsically desirable.  Too often,value and freelance content creators it has come to mean a code word for “cheap.”  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m done with that.  Whether we call ourselves content strategists, copywriters, editors, or consultants, our value as freelance content creators is ripe for a redefinition.

Our worth is not tied to a dollar sign or how much of our abilities we will sell cheaply.  It’s not something that can be bought and sold.  Value is something you work hard to provide, and it’s based on data that can be measured and verified.  Seven years of experience.  Twenty pieces of content.  Testimonials.  Open rates.  Prospect conversions.  Clients who say they are so happy they found you.

The Conclave has an agenda for 2015. It is about redefining value. To our clients and prospects (in Portland and beyond), it is to educate them on the value of our words and ideas.

For you, our members and prospective members, it is how we can be of service to you. The Conclave exists to share ideas, support each other, and have fun.

Here’s what we plan to do over the next several months:

  1. Event with “financial untangler” Shell Tain on February 5th at Forge Portland.
  2. Spring event with branding expert Lynette Xanders.
  3. Private forum for our members.
  4. Speakers with expertise at the freelance life.
  5. Blog posts at least twice a month.
  6. A few surprises up our sleeves…

2015 is shaping up to be an awesome year, so stay tuned.  And maintain your own personal and professional values.

P.S. Regarding image attribution for our blog posts; the last few have included images from which provides images available in the public domain under the Creative Commons Deed CC0.  We will always provide image attribution if the image creator desires it.

Happy Holidays!

The Copywriter Conclave of Portland bhappy holidayslog wishes you “happy holidays!” and hopes freelancers, business owners, organizations, and magical elves all have a safe and happy new year.  We have some cool stuff cooking for 2015, so watch this space for more details!

4 Freelance Copywriters Who Give Great Advice

There are many freelance copywriters who give great advice. If you braved the traffic, wind, and Trimet last Thursday, you met one of them. Formidable copywriter and content strategist Hank Hosfield spent nearly twfreelance copywriters who give great adviceo hours giving advice both practical and inspiring for new and veteran freelance copywriters at the Copywriter Conclave of Portland’s monthly meeting.  (You’ll have access to the entirety of Hank’s talk if you become a member.)

If you don’t have access to in-person resources, there are many freelance writing advisors on the Internet.  Many monetize that advice through coaching, online classes, e-books, and so forth.  Some are good and some are bad. Peter Bowerman (we’ve written about him before) is one of the best.  He’s written for corporations (such as Mercedes-Benz), and now a major line of his business is marketing to freelance copywriters like us.

I’ve encountered many freelance writers in my online travels, and I’ve interacted with four in particular who give excellent advice.  They share some traits:  many years of experience; impressive client lists; and a generosity of spirit.

SEO Copywriting

SEO Copywriting is based in Oregon (West Linn) and was founded by Heather Lloyd-Martin.  Heather has more than 20 years of marketing experience, and she was at the vanguard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) copywriting.  Heather markets to businesses, but she also offers a SEO Copywriting Certification to freelancers.  Heather sends out a weekly e-newsletter, and there is an array of informative blog posts at her site.  She’s also on Twitter.

Dr. Freelance

I became acquainted with Jake Poinier, aka Dr. Freelance, back in 2010 when I started my own freelance copywriting business.  Jake started his freelance shop in 1999.  He releases the Dr. Freelance series of e-books, and his blog posts are informative and entertaining.  He’s also personable, and I’ve learned a lot from him.  One topic he frequently tackles is the touchy subject of freelance writer rates.  You can also find him on Twitter.

Writing Thoughts

Laura Spencer has more than 24 years of professional copywriting experience, with 1,400+ articles and blog posts to her credit.  Laura is a working writer who is also a coach for freelance writers, focusing particularly on messaging and communication.  Laura writes valuable blog posts that touch on many aspects of running a freelance writing business.  Yup, she’s also on Twitter.

Productive Writers

John Soares is another Oregon-based writer (he lives in Ashland).  As of this blog post, he is not taking on new coaching clients, but he sells an e-book designed to help writers discover a niche that is right for them. (Our own Sheila Ashdown has similar advice.).  John’s own niche is in “freelance writing for college textbook publishers,” which has served him well over the years.  He is (you guessed it) on Twitter.

I think there’s an obvious market need for writing advice.  I’m on the fence if a “freelance advisor” should focus only on other freelance writers as his/her market. I think you run the risk of giving outdated advice unless you still market to businesses/institutions. That doesn’t apply so much if you’re discussing basic grammar rules or “how-to” prospecting tips.

I’ve learned the most from writers still “in the game,” and that’s why I’ve highlighted Heather, Jake, Laura, and John.

How about you?  Who do you feel gives great advice for freelance copywriters?