How to Structure a Blog Post to Marry SEO and Readability
If you look up how to write a great blog post, you’ll see mixed answers on what it should contain. Some say that you should focus on SEO and others state that SEO doesn't matter if your readability and content is there.
So which one is correct?
Actually, both! Today I want to teach you how to incorporate both SEO and Readability into your posts. No matter where you’re at in your blogging skills, this article should be able to help you produce more readable, SEO-oriented blog posts.
I'm going to give you tips on both, then I’ll teach you how to incorporate them into your writing.
How to Write for SEO
Writing for SEO can be a great way to gain extra traction from search engines. The more readers can find your content through search engines the more attention you can expect your blog to get.
Understanding how these search engines actually works will give you an edge over your content. Without getting too technical, try these few tips to make your blog posts SEO oriented.
Before I go in-depth for word count, I want to give you an initial bit of advice. Don’t write your blog posts to meet a certain word count, write them to serve a purpose.
However, it has been shown that Google favors longer content.
Check out some research from Brain Dean via Backlinko:
If you look at the visual above, you’ll see that the top 10 placements were at an average of 1700 words of higher.
I suspect this is because when you only write 250 words, there’s not much there for the reader to read. There’s literally not much content to answer the question. However, if you write a 3000 word guide to getting more traffic to your blog from Pinterest, you’re going to answer every one of your reader’s questions. Since you are helpful to the user, Google rewards you.
Think about it like this, Google’s job is to connect a searcher and an answer. If you provide the best answer, you win. How can you provide a better answer to a question like “how many pounds are in a ton?”.
Since there's only one answer, you can be better than your competition by answering other questions a reader might ask. Someone who is looking up this answer might want to know other weight conversions. You could get really fancy and even add a calculator to your page.
By increasing the value of your reader’s experience, you’ll increase their dwell time, and most likely reduce their bounce rate (which means the likelihood of them viewing the page and leaving). If you can get someone to read 3-4 other articles on your blog… Google assumes you’ve got a ton of helpful information, so they reward you for that too!
Increase your word count to rank higher in Google’s search pages. I find that I can simply add 500 words to a post, check the rankings a week later and realize that there’s a significant boost in the SERPs.
Basic Keyword Research
When you go to write your blog post, make sure that you have done a basic keyword research.
With every post you write, there should always be a plan behind it. What keywords are you aiming to rank for and who are you wanting to land on your content?
Here are 6 ways to perform basic keyword research:
- Google related searches
- Google and Youtube Autosuggestion
- Google’s Keyword Planner
Here's how you do it using Google related searches:
Here's how you use Google's autosuggestion tool to find keywords:
If you've ever used Google Adwords before, you'll have access to their keyword planner. I think there's ways around paying for it, but all of my friends have had to spend $10 on ads before gaining access to it.
Think about both your long-tail and short-tail keywords. Long-tail search terms are just search terms with more than 5 words. They usually have less competition and are easier to rank on the first page. “How to write a blog post in less than 1 hour” or “Car washes in Kansas City Missouri” are both long-tail keywords.
Short-tail Keywords are usually very competitive. “How to start blogging” is a perfect example. I suggest focusing on long-tail keywords until you’ve written 30 blog posts.
About 70% of the keywords online are long-tail keywords. These are great for more targeted users and can usually be easier to get traffic from. One of the issues with a long-tail keyword is that it could potentially lead to limited traffic. Most long-tail keywords never have more than 1000 monthly searches.
So which one should you aim for? Well, I would recommend using a little bit of both. It’s good to include both long-tail and short-tail keywords, this is because with both you can put yourself out there. If just ditched both of them you couldn’t have any chance of ranking. In my experience, if you optimize for long-tail keywords, you’ll also target short-tail keyword without even trying.
Images (Alt Tags)
What many people don’t know is that Google can actually interpret and rank an image on your site. This is why it’s so crucial that you include alt tags in your images.
An alt-tag is what tells Google what your image is about. An alt-tag is also used to show text of what an image would be if one of your visitors couldn’t load it. Remember that Google is super smart, and they probably already know what the image is about, so don’t try to keyword stuff or put “blog post ideas” when your image is actually an image of the WordPress dashboard.
Let’s take a look at both good and bad alt-tags
A bad way to use an alt tag would be:
<img src="myimage.png" alt="sentence structure" />
A great way to use an alt tag would be:
<img src="myimage.png" alt="writing a correct sentence example" />
As you can see, the last one is more descriptive and will let google find you easier. It’s also technically a long-tail keyword.
It's really easy to add alt-tags to an image when you're using WordPress. Check the image above for a simple illustration.
When writing for SEO purposes, make sure that your titles are optimized. When Google pulls snippets from your writing they will usually pull your h1 and h2 tags. So you need to make sure that you are including keywords and a very descriptive name about what you are going to talk about after it.
Some examples could be:
- How to write for readability
- How to write for SEO
- How to format a blog post
All these are great because when Google searches your site, they can see exactly what each part of your content is about.
It’s also super helpful to users. Since most users never actually read every word on your site, using correct headings and subheading allow your readers to skim quicker and decide what to read.
How to Write for Readability
White space on your blog is important because it helps your reader not get lost in your text. I bet you’ve landed on a site where there was absolutely no whitespace… just text after text after text.
This makes it really difficult for your readers to skim. I bet you’re wondering how to properly add whitespace...
You can add white space into your writing in a couple different ways:
- Smaller Paragraphs: Use your smaller paragraphs to break up the amount of content in one area. I suggest 2-4 sentences per paragraph.
- Change your paragraph spacing: When you edit the settings on your website make sure to change your spacing from 1.5 to double spaced. This will ensure that you have the best possible read content that you can. Some fonts and themes look better on 1.5, so test your settings to select the best option.
- Write like a conversation: This is a really quick and effective way to add more whitespace and make your article easier to read.
Check out these two examples… one with and one without whitespace. You’ll quickly see the importance of it:
Next on our list for create easily-readable and quality content is your formatting. Formatting is important to ensure that your readers can get through your content easily.
There are a few simple ways you can work on your formatting:
- Bolding: Bolding is a great way to help your readers skim through your content and pick out the important information. Make sure that you don’t go overboard with your balding though. Try to bold 2-3 little parts every couple paragraphs.
- Highlighting: Highlighting is great for moving your readers eyes to a certain portion of a text. When you highlight something, a reader's eyes will automatically gravitate towards it. So make sure that you’re using it well.
- Italicizing: I recommend using italics for single words you want to really stand out.
- Underlining: Underline super important points or conclusions. I wouldn’t underline more than once per 750 words or you’ll lose the importance factor.
Technically, adding bullet points or lists like I’ve done for the past 2 points also fall in the formatting category.
You can do all the formatting you think of but if your writing isn’t easy reading, formatting will not make a difference. In the next part I’ll explain how you can write in a manner that is easy for your readers to consume.
The most readable content is the content that is the easiest to read. Makes sense, right?
But this is not something that will be easily achieved off the line. You’ll need to spend some time editing and working on your writing. It sometimes takes hours for an article to become “perfect”.
Better Transitions: Transitions are important to make sure that your content is flowing from one point to another. You want to make sure that when someone reads your content that they don’t need to stop and think about your writing.
If you have one idea and then start talking about another idea… you need to think about the best way to smoothly transition your topics. If you don’t your writing will seem chopping and you’ll interrupt your reader’s train of thought.
Easier Words: Another way to help with easy reading is to add easier words. You might be an expert in your area but not everyone else is. Try to use words that anyone can recognize and understand. Your audience will love you more for this. In more advanced guides and longer posts, you can include industry jargon or keywords.
When you make it easy for your content to be read, you’ll slowly see the amount of people that appreciate your content. I’ve also seen a longer session-time when I focus on readability. Readers want to easily digest information and not have to skip around to figure out what it’s saying.
How to Marry SEO and Readability
Now that you know the benefits of both SEO & Readability benefits, how do you incorporate them?
Well, before you even start writing, begin with your reader in mind. If you don’t have a target reader, start with yourself in mind. Think back to some articles in which you’ve enjoyed and some that you haven’t. What did you enjoy about them, and what was annoying? Replicate those instances in your own writing.
SEO tactics will get people to your blog, and including readability tips will keep them on your blog.
Before you start writing... do your basic keyword research and make sure that you know who you’re actually targeting. If you can do this correctly google will rank your content up more for providing easier readable content (AKA people actually staying on your website!).
Next you’ll want to write your content in a way that is easily scannable and in a manner that all transitions together. To do this create an outline, this’ll help you stay on track more and make sure that your content is in the correct form.
After you write your content it’s time to go back and add images and format your writing. When you’re finished, scrolling up and down your post should be fun and give you a sense of excitement for the wonderful work of art you just created!
Though writing good articles can be confusing, don’t let it overwhelm you as a new blogger. This stuff can be relatively easily to learn.
Let’s do a quick recap over everything you’ve learned.
- Word Count: Though longer content is favored by search engines, your main focal point should be on creating content that is engaging and informative. If you can do this google will help you rank up anyways.
- Keyword Research: Find relevant keywords for your content. This is important in letting users find your content through search engines.
- Images (Alt-Tags): Images are a great way to help rank your content through google. Use alt-tags to help your readers understand your content when it doesn’t load.
- Optimized Titles: Make sure that your titles are optimized for quick skimming and google indexing. Google will pull from your title what your main points of your content is about.
- Whitespace: Whitespace is great for making sure that your readers have a chance to breathe between your content. White space ensures that they also don’t get lost in your writing.
- Formatting: Formatting helps point out little things within your content. When you bold and highlight certain points of your writing, this shows that it’s important and they should pay attention to it.
- Easy Reading: The best writing is one that can be read the easiest. Use different characteristics like transitions and stories to make your content more engaging and readable.
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