Blog SEO for Beginners: How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Posts

26 min read

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Blog SEO: How to Search Engine Optimize Blog Posts as a Beginner Blogger
I have a love/hate relationship with Blog SEO (short for Search Engine Optimization) — techniques that help you get ranked higher on search engine result pages (SERP) for Google or other search engines.

On the one hand, too much information out there about SEO is outdated or plain incorrect. On the other hand, some legit SEO tips are good for certain types of businesses, while not for certain other types. But how is one to know which blog SEO tips are useful for their business?

When I was a beginner blogger, I often felt overwhelmed by all this information. It took some time, but I eventually figured out an SEO routine that worked for me, putting some of my blog posts at the #1 position on Google’s search engine result page (SERP), and many more among the top five positions.

This one, for example:

My blog post is at the top spot on Google's SERP with a featured snippet.
My blog post is at the top spot on Google’s SERP with a featured snippet.

I know my feeling of overwhelm during those first few months is shared by many bloggers, especially new bloggers. That’s why I decided to write this SEO guide for bloggers. It’s a step-by-step guide so that you can ditch the confusion, and follow a clear strategy and formula, no matter what your blogging niche is.

[Disclaimer: SEO can be as complicated as you make it. Large companies often hire teams for SEO, so, naturally, one blog post isn’t going to cover ALL the things there is to know about the topic. That said, this guide should be sufficient for most bloggers, especially for beginners.]

Let’s get started then!

In this post:

What Is Blog SEO

Blog SEO refers to optimizing a website that helps rank blog posts on search engines. The higher a blog post ranks, the more organic traffic it will get. Optimization includes setting up a fast website, writing content that search engines deem relevant and authoritative, using internal and external linking effectively, etc.

Why is blog SEO important?

Seeing that most people use search engines like Google on a daily basis, and practically for EVERYTHING, it only makes sense for bloggers to SEO their blogs and individual posts. After all, you want people to be able to find your awesome content! And nothing—no social media platform, no word of mouth, no amount of guest posts—quite helps drive traffic to a blog as much as search engines do.

That’s why, it’s important to understand SEO as a blogger.

The downside of focusing on the wrong kind of SEO

SEO is an evolving technology. And with emerging technologies like AI and voice searches, SEO practices that could help you rank on SERP just a couple of years ago would now be useless. What you learn today, may not apply tomorrow.

If you’re a professional marketer, constantly staying on top of the most recent search engine algorithm changes may help. But if you’re just a part-time, side-blogger, which is the case for many bloggers and content creators, then getting a headache trying to master blog SEO is only going to leave you with that — a headache.

I’ll give you an example:

You might hear two things when it comes to SEO:

  • You should target long-tail keywords (keyphrases that have 3+ words) in your blog posts.
  • You should use the 1% density rule, as in, use your target keywords roughly once every 100 words or so.

Now, if that’s all you hear, imagine what a blog post would read like if your keyword was “long distance date ideas” (which happens to be a great long tail keyword with decent search volume and low competition, according to Google’s Keyword Planner) and you used that exact phrase every 100 words or so.

Terrible!

I doubt Google’s smart algorithm will want to show that piece of crap anywhere on top of its search engine result page or SERP, and even if it did, the people who’d click and read would blacklist you right away.

The key is to use the long-tail keyword where it fits in naturally and use the general idea throughout the content (such as “dating,” “long-distance relationships,” date ideas,” etc.)

And here’s something every blogger needs to remember:  Regardless of how your content ranks on search engines, if your human readers are not impressed by your writing, you’ll never make it as a blogger!  Do not ever forget that.

Quality and utility are key to proper blog SEO

Here’s the thing: when you focus on creating great content, and you have your readers’ experience in mind, you automatically end up writing posts that Google would (eventually) love.

In other words, write for your human readers first and foremost.

And then, optimize for search engines that do not take the quality (and utility) away from your writing.

You may have heard of E-E-A-T. I’ll talk more about it shortly, but it stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These are at the center of ranking on Google. And they all have to do with the quality of your writing. Focus on that above all else. I’ll show you how in a bit, but it’s important that you remember this as you read through the rest of this blog post.

Now, let’s talk about blog SEO.


For your convenience, I’ve decided to split the rest of the content into three parts:

  1. Website experience
  2. Content experience
  3. Ongoing blog SEO

Some of these will affect your ranking directly, others indirectly, but you should pay attention to them equally for the best results.

Blog SEO: Website Experience

When I say website experience, I mean both how your human readers perceive your website when they land on a page or blog post, as well as how a search engine like Google may perceive it. There are a lot of factors to the website experience. Below, I’ll go over the most important things you need to pay attention to as a blogger:

Steps to optimize your website for SEO:

  • Choose the right hosting plan for your WordPress blog
  • Make sure to have SSL
  • Choose a well-coded template
  • Optimize your website with a performance-enhancing plugin
  • Set the permalink structure to “post name”
  • Make sure your website is secure
  • Install the Yoast SEO plugin
  • Install Google Analytics
  • Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console
  • Optimize your images

Choose the right hosting plan for your WordPress blog

Maybe one day we’ll have more options, but for now, there’s only one blogging platform I recommend to all serious bloggers: Self-hosted WordPress.

This brings us to: Hosting services for your WordPress blog.

Not all hosting plans are made equal. Believe me, I’ve had a ton of experience with many website hosts when I used to freelance as a web developer, and there were some I hated working with, but was forced to because… well, client! But thanks to that, when I set up my blog, I knew exactly which hosting company I wanted: SiteGround.

I’m not saying SiteGround is the only hosting company that’s good, but it is definitely better than most! They also have a lot of perks like enhanced site security, free SSL, in-house CDN (Content Delivery Network) that makes sites faster without having to use a third-party CDN, and much, much more! All of these are crucial for staying in the good graces of search engine algorithms, a.k.a., improving overall blog SEO.

Here’s a comment one reader left recently about SiteGround on my blog post about WordPress speed optimization:

Reader comment about SiteGround hosting.
Reader-comment about SiteGround hosting.

I just switched from Bluehost to Siteground per this post and not only did my score go from a C to an A and website speed to 1.1s, but also, customer service is SO FRIENDLY!

So yeah, SiteGround has definitely changed many a blogger’s life! If you’re new, sign up for SiteGround. And if you’re not new but struggling with improving website speed and overall experience, consider switching your WordPress blog to SiteGround hosting.

Make sure to have SSL

Pretty much all browsers will now give a security warning if you do not have SSL (https) for your website. So make sure you have it.

You can get SSL from your domain or hosting provider. Some hosting companies may give you free SSL for a limited period of time, but not SiteGround. So, here’s another reason to sign up with SiteGround, they offer free SSL always!

Choose a well-coded template

If you’re buying WordPress templates from questionable sources, beware, not all of them are good. Some of them are downright awful!

I do NOT recommend buying templates from Etsy or other third-party marketplaces, to be sure. You just never know what’s good.

Always make sure to buy themes/templates from reputable sources. Do some research on what’s good, make sure there are plenty of positive reviews, and check out the demo sites before you commit. Always buy themes that are optimized for both desktop and mobile devices. Search engines DO NOT like websites that are not optimized across devices, making it one of the crucial blog SEO factors for websites.

I personally recommend the Astra theme. I use its free version with the paid, Elementor Pro page builder.

If you do not wish to use a page builder like Elementor, you’ll still be in good hands with the Astra theme. You can even upgrade to Astra Pro which will open up a whole lot more features for you to play with design your blog with.

Optimize your website with a performance-enhancing plugin

Website speed is important for your blog SEO. We’ve already touched on one of the things that affect your website load speed: your hosting company. But that alone isn’t sufficient. There are some other factors you need to take care of such as caching, minifying codes, etc. A good plugin can usually take care of those things.

I use WP Rocket to improve my website performance. It’s a premium plugin and does a fantastic job for my site. Read this blog post to see what I did to shorten my load time and increase site performance: How to Improve WordPress Website Speed and Performance.

However, SiteGround now offers its own plugin which is totally free and works seamlessly with its hosting plan. If you’re just signing up now with SiteGround, you should be fine with its in-house plugin: SiteGround Optimizer.

Set the permalink structure to “post name” right after WordPress installation

This does not affect your blog SEO per se, but down the road, if you change/update/edit your blog post, it’s better to make sure the permalink is set to “post name” and not to date/time or other weird things. The simplest is the best.

My most recent WordPress installations have post name permalink structure as default. But it doesn’t hurt to check it.

If you’ve already had your blog for a while with a date/time format, then leave it as it is; do not change the permalink for existing content.

But if you’re setting up a new blog/new WordPress, then it’s best to make sure your permalink structure is set to “post name.”

To check, go to your WordPress Dashboard, then go to Settings > Permalinks, and check your permalinks structure. See the image below:

It is best to have your permalink set to "post name."
It is best to have your permalink set to “post name.”

Make sure your website is secure

Once again, SiteGround is superior here because it comes with a ton of built-in security features that other hosting companies lack.

You should also use a plugin: I have been using WordFence Premium for a while now. But SiteGround’s in-house plugin—SiteGround Security—is also really good and works seamlessly with the hosting features.

Ugh! Believe me, this wasn’t meant to be a “promote-SiteGround” blog post, but what can I say?! It’s just that good!

If you need help, you’ll find a complete guide to setting up your blog with WordPress on SiteGround here.

Install the Yoast SEO plugin

Yoast SEO is one of the best SEO plugins. There are a couple of others, and they all have similar features (such as RankMath, All in One SEO, etc.)

Yoast SEO is a powerhouse and it can help you with a ton of things. However, for most beginners, these are the two most important features:

  • Generating a sitemap (you don’t have to do anything; Yoast automatically generates it.)
  • Adding meta title and description.

Do keep in mind a few things: Yoast SEO in and of itself has no effect on your ranking; it’s a tool that does things for you (like enabling you to add metadata without having to hard code it for every single post and page; gosh, that’d be a nightmare!)

Also, please do NOT take writing advice from Yoast. It has that feature, but from personal experience, I have learned to ignore those.

If you need help setting it up, you’ll find directions here: Step-by-step setup of the Yoast SEO plugin.

Install Google Analytics and add your sitemap to Google Search Console

Analytics and Search Console do not by themselves help your blog SEO, but these are tools you’ll use to make sure your site is indexing correctly and reaching people.

Search Console is great because you can use it to track your organic traffic, see which keywords you’re ranking for, make note of which posts and pages bring the most traffic, and much more.

You’ll find a tutorial for adding Google Analytics here.

And here’s where you’ll find a tutorial for adding your sitemap to Google Search Console.

Optimize your images

Images are one of the biggest culprits for slow websites.

Images are imperative; they enhance a user’s experience (more about it down below). But a lot of bloggers don’t realize that they need to optimize images before they upload them to their blogs.

Personally, I optimize images a lot even before I upload them: I use a service like Canva or Photoshop to resize all images, depending on content width. So, for example, if your largest content width (ideally on a desktop browser) is 800 px, I recommend uploading images that are somewhere between 1.2-1.5x this largest width. For our example, that’d be images that are between 960 and 1,200 px wide.

Here’s how to find out the largest content size:

  1. Open your website on a desktop browser as that’ll likely be the largest content width for most sites.
  2. Make sure the browser is maximized (taking up the entire screen of your computer.)
  3. Right-click anywhere on the page and then click “Inspect.” This will open up the inspection tool.
  4. Click the element selector. Shown below on a Chrome browser.
  5. Then click anywhere in the content area of your page or post to select that element. Your browser should now show the element size in the width x height format. The first number is the maximum width. (Keep in mind that different areas of your website may have different maximum widths. For example, I have a certain maximum width on blog posts, but a different maximum width on pages.)
Finding maximum content width using the Inspect tool on the Chrome browser.
Finding maximum content width using the Inspect tool on the Chrome browser.

I’d also recommend using only .jpg or .webp files. The .jpg files are typically small in size, however, .webp files are sometimes much smaller than their .jpg counterparts without losing quality during compression. Not always, but often that is the case. I use Photoshop to save image files as .webp files.

Doing these would often be enough for your website. However, if you’re strapped for time or you do not always remember to optimize your photos before uploading, you can failsafe this process by using an image optimization plugin such as Optimole or Smush. These plugins come with a lot of optimization options, and they even remove EXIF data from images—a useful feature if you do not use Photoshop to optimize photos.

Want a downloadable and printable blog writing template and SEO checklist?

You can grab a copy here.

Blog SEO: Content Experience

So far, we’ve only talked about prepping your website. Now, let’s talk about how to Search Engine Optimize your content.

Steps to optimize your content for SEO:

  • Make sure your content demonstrates E-E-A-T
  • Understand what your audience wants (and needs)
  • Research before writing
  • Write a clear title
  • Format your blog post or content for search engines with proper HTML tags
  • Format your blog posts for readability and user experience
  • Optimize content for featured snippets
  • Add meta title and description
  • Find and use the right keywords
  • Add relevant images
  • Add both internal and external links

Make sure your content demonstrates E-E-A-T

What is E-E-A-T?

E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It refers to how Google’s ranking system rewards content that embodies these qualities, assessed by human raters. Gone are the days when you could stuff keywords and rank; because now you have to prove that you’re creating useful, relevant, high-quality content.

Basically, write from experience, be an expert in whatever topic you’re covering whether through your personal experience or research or both, and be an authority in your subject matter so that people trust your content.

You can find the complete search rater guidelines from Google here.

Understand what your audience wants (and needs)

There are certain types of content that your audience wants, and other types that your audience needs; sometimes these two types overlap, and other times they don’t.

For example, my readers often care about how to start a blog, it’s something they want and need. But my readers also need to make sure their blog is set up the right way so that it’s fast, secure, and well-optimized. They need to know this stuff, but they’re not always aware of it, and therefore, they don’t necessarily want to read it.

But I, as the authority in all things blogging, know what my readers want and what they need, even if they don’t want it right away. I know that eventually many will want to know more about such topics. And therefore, it’s my job to write about not only what my readers want, but also what my readers need.

And that starts with understanding who my readers are.

So, make sure you know your readers. Create an audience persona. There are plenty of guides online about creating this audience persona, but only you know what that looks like.

For example, some people will say that you have to have your readers’ gender and age figured out to create an audience persona. Honestly? I personally don’t give a crap about that when it comes to The Side Blogger’s audience. Anyone at any age can start a blog, and my goal—my blog’s goal—is to help those beginner bloggers and content creators make a sizable side income online. That’s all I care about. My readers want to start a blog, they’re ready to put in the work, they have a few hours every week to do said work, and they’re eager and thirsty for knowledge. That right there is my audience persona.

But maybe you do need to have a gender in mind when you write or even an age bracket. It all depends on you, your blog niche, and who you wish to serve your content to. Understand that, and the rest (as in individual blog post topics) will come to you.

Research before writing

It’s always best to do some research before you start writing your blog post; even when you think you know a lot about a certain topic. I personally like to pay attention to a few things:

  • What my competitors have to say (I start by doing a Google search for the topic, and check out the first 5-ish posts that come up to see what they’re talking about. I always want to share better and more useful content than my competitors, so researching what top performers are saying is imperative.
  • I also check out the “People also ask” sections in SERP. These questions help me understand what my potential audience may be asking about the topics.
The "People also ask" section for search term: "date ideas for long distance couples"
The “People also ask” section for the search term: “date ideas for long-distance couples”

Write a good and clear title

Don’t be clever with your titles, choose clarity instead. For example, compare the following titles:

Example 1: Do This or Kick Your Blog Into Oblivion

Example 2: A 9-Step Guide to Writing Blog Posts That Drive Traffic

The first title is clever. Nobody knows what it is; neither your human readers nor search engines. Therefore, it’s a bad title. Don’t write clever titles; they don’t do well in search results.

Choose clear titles instead that say exactly what people can expect within the blog post; like the second example.

I have a guide here for writing awesome blog post titles if you need some help.

Format your blog posts

There are two types of formatting I pay attention to:

  1. Formatting for search engines (HTML tags)
  2. Visual formatting for user experience

Formatting for search engines

Search engines depend on proper formatting to contextualize a piece of content. A title tag tells a search engine what the topic is about. Headers do the same. Proper formatting can often help you not only get ranked higher in search engine result pages but also get picked up for featured snippets (which I’ll talk about in a minute.)

WordPress makes formatting easy. Pay attention to these:

  • Use its editor to add proper header tags (H1 through H6)
  • Make sure headers are used with proper hierarchy. For example, if the main header is H2, then subsequent subheaders under that main header should be H3. If there are sub-subheaders, they should be H4, and so on.
  • Use numbered or bulleted lists using the WordPress editor for lists.

Formatting for user experience

This affects SEO indirectly. For example, some indirect indicator of good content is how long readers stay on a post or page, whether they scroll down to read or not, or how fast they leave a page (when someone lands on your site and leaves right away or soon after, it’s called bouncing.)

The longer people stay on your page/post and check out/read your content, the better your content quality because, hey! Nobody wants to stick around crappy content, right?

That’s why it is so important to write people-first content.

But also, formatting can help improve readers’ experience. For example, if your font size is too small and readers have a hard time reading them, then they’ll likely not stick around long.

A thorough guide on blog post formatting is here.

Optimize blog posts for featured snippets

Google often emphasized certain types of content, known as featured snippets. They’re shown in a special box, at the top of a search engine result page (SERP). Featured snippets are a great way to get discovered and set yourself apart.

For example, as of writing this, if you search for “media kit for bloggers,” you’ll see one of my blog posts as a [definition] featured snippet, explaining what a blogger media kit is. See the image below:

Featured Snippet for search term: media kit for bloggers.
Featured Snippet for the search term: “media kit for bloggers”

Google loves to show the following types of content as featured snippets:

  • Definition
  • List
  • Table
  • Video (YouTube)

Consider adding these elements to your blog post whenever applicable.

For added context, it’s useful to follow the section of content intended for a featured snippet right below a header or subheader (using an H-tag) that clearly explains what the following content is.

Here’s another example:

When you search for “steps to design a logo,” you see this featured snippet from Shopify:

Featured snippet from Shopify for search term: steps to design a logo
Featured snippet from Shopify for the search term: “steps to design a logo”

The image above shows a “list” featured snippet. In the actual blog post on Shopify, this is what the list looks like: A header (H2) followed by an ordered (numbered) list. Like so:

Link featured snippet from the Shopify website
Link featured snippet from the Shopify website.

You’ll find a complete guide to featured snippets in the blog post below:

How To Optimize Your Blog Posts for Google’s Featured Snippets

Add meta title and description

Metadata (title and description) tells search engines the general purpose/intent of the blog post. It’s one of the factors that help search engines understand and contextualize a blog post.

You can add them using the Yoast SEO plugin.

Your meta title would typically refer to whatever your blog post title is. You can, if you wanted to, use a different meta title using the Yoast plugin, but that’s another discussion altogether. For most intents and purposes, your meta title would be the same as the blog post title.

As for the meta description, write something that summarizes what a reader can expect from the blog post. Keep it short and sweet (use Yoast SEO’s colored guide for the length of the title and description; green is good, orange is OK, and red is too long.)

Metadata in Yoast SEO
Metadata in Yoast SEO

Find and use the right keywords

I didn’t care about keywords at all for the first couple of years, and I don’t regret it. I’ve always found the task daunting and tedious. I still, mostly, don’t care about keywords that much. And it helps me write in a way that is meant for my human readers, with utility and quality in mind.

The good news is that search engines are getting smarter all the time. They can understand content much better now even without having to match exact keywords. Chances are that if you write a really good blog post, and someone else writes another blog post and stuffs a lot of keywords, essentially killing quality in the process, your post will rank higher.

Given, of course, that you have a good, well-performing website and historically have well-written and useful content.

That has been my experience with blogging and ranking so far.

If I had prioritized writing with keywords in mind, would I be ranking higher for more blog posts? Maybe. Possibly. But prioritizing readers’ experience has been beneficial for me so far, and I still make a full-time income with my blog. Just sayin’ 😉

But, I don’t disregard keywords completely, not anymore. If you really want to know about keywords, I’ll give you a brief how-to right below. There’s more to it, but this should be sufficient for you. I know they are for me!

How to find keywords for your blog posts

There are two strategies I’ll describe here:

Strategy 1: Write a blog post first. Optimize for keywords later.

Sometimes I know I need to write a blog post, regardless of whether I have ranking potential or not.

Take this post, for example. Blog SEO is one of the most competitive niches. I’m competing with sites like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Neil Patel, and many, many more. These are huge businesses with websites that have existed for much longer than this little blog. I’m not under any delusion that I’ll be able to rank this post among the top five, or even the top ten, in SERP.

But I need to write this because I know my post will be much more useful to new bloggers or bloggers who’re new to SEO than posts by those other, bigger businesses. Basically, I’m writing this for my existing audience who will seek out an SEO guide for me because they like how I write, and find my guidelines clear and easy to follow.

So, I’ll write it, then I’ll try to find some relevant keywords for it and insert them as needed.

Why bother at all if I’m not trying to rank? Good question. The answer is, “Just in case.” Because I’ve written blog posts in the past without ranking in mind, and they still ranked. So you see… you never really know!

Anyway, let’s talk about the process now.

Typically, I use Google Keyword Planner (free) or SEMrush‘s keyword tool for finding these keywords. Mangools‘ KWfinder is another good keyword finder tool (and more budget-friendly than SEMrush or Ahrefs).

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you’ve written a blog post on date ideas for long-distance couples. After you’ve written the post, go to one of these keyword-finder tools, and search for the term “date ideas for long-distance couples.” See what comes up. Here’s what I found using Google Keyword Planner.

Google Keyword Planner results for "date ideas for long distance couple"
Google Keyword Planner results for “date ideas for long-distance couples”

The exact keyphrase seems to have 10-100 searches and low competition for ranking, which makes it a decent keyphrase right out of the box. But I also see a few keywords like “long distance date ideas,” “long-distance date night ideas,” “fun long distance date ideas,” and a few more that could easily fit into your blog post.

If they do, use them. If they don’t leave ’em. It’s as simple as that. Don’t stress about it too much. Insert them where they feel natural. Don’t force them. Did any of these keywords give you some new ideas? Can you write an additional paragraph or two on those topics? Then write them.

Again, remember that you’re writing for your readers; not the search engine. Google prefers people-first content, so write for them humans!

Strategy 2: Find a keyword first, and then write the blog post.

This is where you find a keyword that’s easy to rank, and then write a blog post that targets that keyword specifically. Use the same method described above, but this time you haven’t written the post first. Instead, you’re trying to find ideas. For example, let’s compare two keywords from the example above:

  • long distance date ideas (1k-10k searches per month, low competition)
  • long distance date night ideas (100 – 1k searches per month, low competition)

Both have low competition, but the first keyphrase has 1k+ monthly searches, while the second keyphrase has less than 1k monthly searches. So, naturally, it’d be better for you to target the first keyword (more search volume, yet low competition).

Even though you’re trying to rank your content, remember that you should still write with a people-first mentality.

Where to insert keywords

The best places to insert keywords are:

  • the title/meta title,
  • the meta description,
  • a header/subheader or two, and,
  • the conclusion.

Those are the elements that search engines look at closely.

It is also a good practice to spread keywords throughout the body of your blog post.

But be careful. You may have heard about the 1% distribution rule. Some people say 2.5%, and some others even say 5%.

Please, ignore them, I beg you! For your own sake!

Here’s why: a long-tail keyphrase must seem natural within the post. But if you try to forcefully add them too frequently (at 1%, you have to add them at least once every 100 words, that’s just too much and too unnatural!) it wouldn’t be people-first content any longer.

So, focus on writing a good post, and if you do, chances are that your topic will come up naturally every 100/150 words, without having to force it. No, it won’t be the exact long-tail keyphrase, but like I said, Google and other search engines are smart enough to understand your context even if you do not add the exact keyphrase a bazillion times.

Pro tip 1: Do not try to focus on too many keywords in one blog post; choose one that reflects your topic the best, and stick with it. If other keywords come up naturally in your writing, great, but don’t go out of your way to focus on them. Too many keywords may sound unnatural, which is not ideal for people-first content.

Pro tip 2: If you’re wondering why long-tail keywords and not a single word, well, it’s because long-tail keywords are easy to rank. People hardly search for a single word, and it’s hard to figure out the context from just one word. So naturally, people search for strings of words and even full sentences or questions. Single-word keywords are also unnecessarily and highly competitive. Also, they naturally show up in your content anyway. For example, I have used the word “SEO” 80+ times in this blog post, and I’m not even targeting it!!!

[Related: How to rank quickly and easily using the Keyword Golden Ratio formula.]

Add relevant images

Images are great, and search engines love them too! All blog posts should have at least one featured image, but aim to add more if and when they are relevant.

Always make sure to optimize your images for fast page load time (see the previous section — Website Experience — for optimization best practices.)

Aside from optimizing your photos, also make sure to:

  • add a descriptive alt text (really important for accessibility)
  • add descriptive captions for all images in the body of the blog post
  • add images you have the right to use (check image license)
  • Always give credit to the photographer or wherever you get your images from. If you create images with AI tools, mention that too.

You can add alt-text and captions when you’re uploading photos on WordPress; see the image below:

Image alt text and captions on WordPress Media Upload.
Image alt text and captions on WordPress Media Upload.

Add links, both internal and external

Remember “trustworthiness” from our E-E-A-T?

Well, one of the ways to add trustworthiness is by adding links to your resources (external, outgoing links.) Whenever you come up with ideas or information from another website, ideally a reputable website and not Wikipedia or some other random, untrustworthy site, it’s a positive sign.

You should also add internal links—links to point to your own content on your website/blog. Internal links help search engines understand the content of not just that specific blog post, but also your website in general.

Whenever you add links, whether internal or external, make sure to use descriptive anchor texts (texts that are visible and clickable on a website).

For example, let’s say that you’re linking to an article that has date ideas for long-distance couples. A good anchor text for this would be: “Click here to check out some date ideas for long-distance couples.” The whole text would be linked to the article.

Now, a bad anchor text might be if you type that sentence above, but make only the “Click here” part clickable.

I’d recommend adding internal and external links as needed but aim to have at least two internal and two external links per blog post.

A note about no-follow external links: Basically, no-follow links tell search engines not to count them as valid backlinks. So, no SEO juice for the external website. Personally, I mostly use the no-follow tag for sponsored links and affiliate links. I don’t mind giving SEO juice to good websites that I refer to that have not paid me money for link insertion.

Blog SEO: Ongoing Search Engine Optimization

SEO doesn’t stop at writing a search engine optimized blog post. A lot of SEO happens after you’ve written and published a blog post.

For example, don’t just write a blog post and forget about it, Make sure to come back to it from time to time, and update your content with more relevant and current content.

You’ll notice that most big businesses update their blog posts every year. They have a dedicated team doing just that—updating older posts.

People like you or me, part-time bloggers, do not have the time or resources. So, here’s my advice: make a list of blog posts that you always want to stay current. Chances are that you have 10-15 posts that bring the most traffic to your site than the rest of the posts. Keep those current. Revisit them every 6 months to a year and update them.

Revisiting old blog posts can boost your search ranking and help you gain new traffic! So make sure to do this for all of your popular posts periodically.

When updating, I like to pay special attention to these factors:

Steps to optimize old content for ongoing SEO:

  • Make a list of posts that need regular updating based on traffic
  • Make a list of posts that rank high or have the potential to rank higher
  • Add/update posts to account for new and current information
  • Optimize for featured snippets
  • Edit the publication date to reflect the most recent update

Make a list of posts that need regular updating based on traffic

These are blog posts that drive the most traffic, subscriber, etc. When you submit your blog’s sitemap to Google Search Console, you’ll have access to some really important information such as the pages on your website that drive the most traffic (Search Console dashboard > Search results > Pages). This list should tell you which blog posts are resonating with people (hence the higher traffic) that you need to edit/update often. Update at least the top 10 pages/posts every 6 months to a year, as needed.

Search results for top-performing pages and posts on your blog per Google Search Console.
Search results for top-performing pages and posts on your blog per Google Search Console.

Make a list of posts that rank high or can be ranked higher easily

Some other posts you’ll want to keep updating are those that are already ranking among the top five positions, and those that are close to that (between 5 and 10.) How do you know that? Well, I use Ahrefs’ webmaster tools for that. It’s totally free to use for website owners. The setup is simple; just follow the prompts. Once you’ve set it up and Ahrefs has collected information, go to the dashboard, click “Organic keywords,” then click the position column twice to show results in ascending order.

Pages are rank on Google Search Engine Result Page via Ahrefs.
Pages are rank on Google Search Engine Result Page via Ahrefs.

Add/update posts to account for new and most current information

You already know which keywords people use to find your content (from Ahrefs or Google Search Console). Now search for those keywords yourself and see what other content shows up in the top 5 spots of SERP. Read them to see if there’s an information gap in your content. If there is, make sure to address them in your updated post. You can also edit content with the most current information, update images, tweak the title and meta description, and write a better introduction and conclusion as needed.

Optimize for featured snippets

Can your post benefit from optimizing for one or more of the four featured snippets I mentioned above? (Definition, list, video, table.)

Edit the publication date to reflect the most recent

As long as that does not change your blog post URL; it shouldn’t if your permalink structure is set to “post name.” But if it’s not, then disregard this.

You’ll find a more thorough guide to revamping an old blog post here.

And that’s it; this should give you enough to SEO your blog posts for ranking.

A Quick Note About AI-Generated Content

Maybe, one day, AI-generated content will pose a real threat to writers and bloggers. Maybe that day is close, or maybe not. The problem is, nobody really knows.

Regardless, according to Google, the only thing that matters when it comes to ranking is high-quality content that displays the characteristics of E-E-A-T. (You can read about it here.)

Can you create E-E-A-T with AI? Sure, I mean, why not? It’s not going to work right out of the box—that’s SEO-suicide as things stand with AI at the time of writing this—but with some tweaks, you can add layers to AI-generated content, add in your personal experience, proof of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Basically, make it your own!

But please, if you use AI to create content, do make sure that you make it your own.

And also, fact-check every little bit of information because AI is notorious for peddling false information as facts, very confidently at that.

My advice? Do not create AI content for topics you’re not familiar with. Only use AI for subjects you have sufficient expertise on to catch any mistakes or false/fake information.

A Summary of Blog SEO: Steps to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog for Ranking

Just a reminder, not all of this directly affect your SEO, but they’re good practices nonetheless that can have indirect relevance.

  1. SEO starts with your website. Pick a great hosting company to host your WordPress blog. Choose a hosting plan that is secure and fast. Make sure you have SSL (https). (I suggest SiteGround’s GrowBig plan for beginner bloggers.)
  2. Use a high-quality template for your blog.
  3. Optimize further with a caching plugin like WP Rocket. If you’re hosted with SiteGround, then the SiteGround Optimizer plugin should work fine.
  4. Make sure your website is secure with an additional layer. Use a plugin like WordFence or SiteGround Security.
  5. Install the Yoast SEO (or some other SEO) plugin.
  6. Install Google Analytics to track your traffic.
  7. Add your sitemap to Google Search Console so you can make sure everything is properly indexed and your site is up and running. It also gives you a lot of useful information such as organic traffic data, keywords you rank for, pages with the most traffic, etc.
  8. Verify site ownership on Ahrefs webmaster tools so you can track pages that are ranking and a bunch of other really useful information for totally free.
  9. Write people-first content with E-E-A-T in mind: Experience. Expertise. Authoritativeness. Trustworthiness.
  10. Always research the topic before writing to make sure you’re answering potential questions from readers, and also to make sure your post is better than what’s already out there.
  11. Format your blog posts properly (use proper HTML tags for search engines, and improve visual formatting for positive readers’ experience.)
  12. Add meta title and description with Yoast SEO plugin.
  13. Find and use the right keywords in the title, meta description, some headers/subheaders, and throughout the copy as needed. Do not forcefully inject keywords. Use them moderately and only when it sounds natural.
  14. Add relevant images and optimize them so they’re small in size without losing quality (.jpg and .webp files are best for blog post images.) You can also use a plugin to further optimize images. Make sure to add images you have permission to use. Add alt text and captions, and give credit. Do not use random images you find online that you do not have permission to use. Even if you link back to the original and give credit, a proper license is necessary for all images.
  15. Add both internal and external links to your blog posts.
  16. Edit/update your old blog posts periodically (especially the popular posts.) Try to do this every six months to a year.
  17. Keep an eye out for posts that are ranking high, but not yet within the top five. Those are easy to rank with some added optimization.

And that’s it!

Don’t forget, I have an SEO blog post template and workbook right here. Get this template and you can fashion your future blog posts the same way that I do.

SEO blog post template for sale.
SEO blog post template for sale.

This was a long post, but I hope it’ll help you optimize your blog posts for search engines.

Study these blog SEO tips, practice them, and make a habit of using them for every single blog post you write so they become second nature to you. It may take some time to get used to, but you’ll get there. Use the right tools, and always focus on people-first content. “Search Engine Optimize” or SEO isn’t hard, it’s actually really easy once you have the basics down, and that’s what this blog post is for. So, good luck!

Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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Blog SEO: How to Search Engine Optimize Blog Posts as a Beginner Blogger

SEO techniques for beginners that will drive traffic to your blog, increase visitors, and improve domain authority over time.SEO techniques for beginners that will drive traffic to your blog, increase visitors, and improve domain authority over time.
39 thoughts on “Blog SEO for Beginners: How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Posts”
  1. Your insightful blog truly emphasizes the critical role SEO services play in online success. Implementing these strategies has undoubtedly elevated our digital presence, making a significant impact on our business growth. Kudos to the value you bring!

  2. Great post. This one is really targeted towards providing comprehensive SEO basics for starting bloggers, which is really what I needed. Thanks.

  3. This is the article I was looking for, so thank you for helping. Could you please tell me what software you use to run your incredibly fast website? I also want to create a simple website for my business, but I need help with the domain and hosting. Asphostportal reportedly has a stellar reputation. Are there any other choices available, and if so, what would you suggest?

  4. I appreciate your emphasis on the importance of researching before writing. SEO is not just about inserting keywords into content. It’s about providing valuable, well-researched information that meets the needs of the user. Just like your post does! 👍

  5. Such a clear and helpful post – as always! Thanks, Maliha. I was able to write down snippets for future reminders. I started using a table of contents for larger posts after noting that you made mention of this in your blog posts. I’m curious when you stated that google will pull a list from a blog post – would this include a TOC? Or would this need to be written out in paragraph form to be used by google?

  6. Mathilde Taylor

    Thank you for this vital blog post. As you point out, the experiences that comprise the customer’s journey are more important than ever in the new hyper-connected world enabled by social media. Brands can now use insights from social datasets to fuel their decisions to improve the customer experience, help define content type and channel, and surface opportunities to remove barriers in the path to purchase – don’t you think it’s a great time to be in marketing?

  7. digital marketing agency

    I found this article on SEO for beginners very helpful! As someone who’s just starting to learn about SEO, it can be overwhelming to try to understand all the different aspects of it. This article breaks it down into easy-to-understand steps and gives practical advice on how to improve your website’s SEO. Thank you for sharing this information!

  8. Seo is something that beginners can only understand a little bit. I’ve seen what SEO is and all that it has the potential to do, and it’s different for beginners.

  9. This was spectacular and so informative! Thank you! I love how clearly you have shared everything. I wish I had come across your blog before I launched mine. It would have been so helpful. I look forward to reading the rest of your posts!

  10. Hello,
    Very informative! I have SG Optimizer, should I still activate Optimole? I activated it and it said there was a conflict with a part of SG optimizer.
    Thanks,
    Darlene

    1. I use Optimole with WP Rocket. I don’t use SG Optimizer, but it’s likely that SG Optimizer plugin comes with its own image optimization features.

  11. Great article with an excellent idea! Thank you for such a valuable article. I really appreciate for this great information.

  12. This blog post is really nice and precisely written. I am sure it will help a lot of people of this world to get knowledge how to write a good piece of content.

  13. Stine Salomonsson van Dijk

    Very helpful post. I really appreciate the structured breakdown of the essentials to SEO. As well as the approach of focusing on great content and good user experiences. I guess I should get back to writing my first posts then, instead of procrastinating with SEO! 🙂

  14. Thanks for the excellent post and I am totally impressed about this beautiful post. This post is a complete SEO learning post and it will be 100% helpful for the beginners. I hope you will write to us continuously and I regularly follow your each & every article and wait for your new post.

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