The Complete Guide To Building Your Blog Audience

The Complete Guide To Building Your Blog Audience

Written by Neil Patel & Aaron Agius

Chapter Three

Organic Search

By this point you probably have some great ideas for blog posts. Maybe you’ve even created your influencer list complete with contact information. If you’re really into the idea of blogging and marketing your blog you may have even reached out to one or two influencers to discuss co-authored posts.

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to format your blog posts so they rank well in search engines. Organic search remains and important way to generate traffic for your blog. It’s an essential part of blog marketing and in the following chapter we’ll show you the steps and tools you need to optimize your posts.

Let’s jump in.

Optimize Blog Posts

People are looking for information online. Blogging is one way to feed the demand for information.

Optimizing your blog posts for organic search accomplishes two things:

  1. Creates content your target audience wants and needs
  2. Communicates what your content is to search engines so they can share it with your target audience

Whenever you’re creating online content you want to think about the reader first. For the most part, when you focus on the reader the SEO part of the equation will be taken care of without much effort.

But there are some important steps to take to optimize your blog posts so that you communicate with the search engines so they can rank your posts.

The topic of SEO was covered extensively in a previous guide — The Advanced Guide To SEO.

For this chapter we’ll cover only relevant information and provide the steps for optimizing your blog posts for SEO.

Here are those steps.

Note: We won’t spend much time on the basics like title, URL, etc. There are countless posts on those topics, but we will include them because they are essential to effective blog SEO.

Step 1 Keyword And Focus

When marketing your blog posts you’ll often be covering the topics that your target audience is looking for online. You’ll be writing about hot topics, trends and common industry questions. You’ll also be doing keyword research to find out what your audience is searching for on search engines.

When creating each blog post you want to have one main keyword phrase in mind for each post. From that one focus keyword phrase you might have additional secondary keyword phrases. In most cases, you’ll naturally use the secondary keywords when you write the post, but if you’re cognizant of them ahead of time you can make sure to include them.

An example might be writing a post for the keyword phrase “living room design”. That is your focus keyword.

Secondary keyword phrases might include:

  • “modern living room design”
  • “vintage living room design”
  • “living room design inspiration”

You get the picture.

From your blog post ideas you’ll need to extrapolate the main keyword focus.

Once you do that you can create or recreate your title.

Step 2 Title

It could be argued that the title is the most important piece of your blog.

Obviously the content needs to be outstanding, but if your title isn’t appealing nobody is going to click to read the content whether it’s from a link on social media, a search result or anything else.

To capture attention your title has to be intriguing to your target audience. It has to really entice them to want to click.

And on the other side, you want the title to be optimized for SEO. After all, the title needs to be relevant to the target audience and it needs to communicate to the search engines what the post is about.

Some say you can’t do both, but it is possible if you know the secret.

Here are some examples of catchy titles using catchy title formulas and the keyword phrase from earlier in the chapter:

  • Are You Making These Common Living Room Design Mistakes?
  • 101 Inspirational Living Room Design Trends
  • 25 Modern Living Room Design Tips From The Experts

Each of these titles uses a specific formula known for getting clicks (and there are many others) while also using the focus keyword phrase.

Types of posts that demand clicks include:

  • Questions
  • Lists
  • How-to
  • Secrets
  • Mistakes

Also notice that the last title in the list is an example of the type of posts that are easy to market. It includes tips from experts. You can interview experts in the industry and get them to share the post once it’s published.

Here are a few rules for finalizing your title:

  • Keep it under 60 characters
  • Use the focus keyword once
  • Don’t stuff it with keywords

Even though title tags are based on pixel count width rather than a number of characters, it’s worth keeping titles to 60 characters or less.

Keep titles natural, relevant and clear for readers.

Step 3 URL

There are a few theories on creating URLs for blog posts.

One school of thought is to use full title as your URL.

Let’s say you chose the title:
101 Inspirational Living Room Design Trends

Your URL ending would become:

This is a fine title.

The other thought is that shorter URLs are better. So to keep it short you would use the URL:

Both are valid, but you don’t want to come across as blatantly targeting what you think search engines want. Create the URL to provide the most relevant information to your audience. When they see the URL they should instantly know what the post is about.

A few rules for creating blog URLs:

  • Avoid using the date in the URL unless it’s absolutely imperative that you need to avoid duplication with another URL on your website or blog
  • Use dashes instead of underscores
  • Use all lowercase letters instead of uppercase or proper case

Step 4 Description

The meta description is another important element for encouraging clicks from search engine results. The major item people see on the search engine result pages is the title.

Along with the title there are now more visual elements such as video screenshots and author avatars resulting from Google Authorship, which are all referred to as rich snippets.

But a secondary item on the SERPs is the description.

This is the smaller text under the Title that describes in more detail what is on the page.

When writing your descriptions you want to share a little bit of what the reader will find in the full article. Entice their interest. Use the focus keyword phrase.

Keep it under 160 characters. Don’t stuff it with keywords. Write as if you were writing an introductory paragraph for your article.

The purpose is to convince the searcher to click through to your post.

Step 5 Headings

It’s a simple thing, but headings are something easy to overlook when formatting your blog posts.

Books have chapters for a reason.

Chapters break up the content. It’s easier to digest content when it comes in segments.

Blog post headings make it easier for the reader to digest.

That’s one reason to use headings in your blog posts and it’s a big reason, but another important reason to including headings in your blog posts is for organic search optimization.

Using your main focus keyword and secondary keywords in the headings gives the reader hints as to what the content is about when they scan your article. And the search engines use it as a signal too.

Step 6 Internal Linking

Internal links help market you blog posts as readers read your blog posts.

When someone is done reading your content you have to give him or her a next step. If you link to 4 or 5 previous blog posts you give the reader something to do next and it benefits you. They continue to read your content. They stay on your site. You continue to build that trust and relationship that leads to a sale.

Again, blog readers appreciate internal links as long as it’s not overdone. And because readers show preference toward internal linking, search engines do as well.

Internal linking gives search engines an indication of relevant content on your blog. By linking from an authoritative post on your blog to another relevant post you indicate that both posts are important.

Internal links can also increase traffic and time on site, which are two additional indicators search engines use to gauge the relevance and authority of your blog.

The Best WordPress SEO Plugins

WordPress is the most popular blogging content management system available.

One reason WordPress is popular is because of the community of developers it has. The software comes with a huge market for free and premium plugins.

We covered, in detail, WordPress and necessary plugins that make your WordPress site an SEO powerhouse. We’ll add a few to the list for blog marketing purposes as it relates to organic search.

Step 1 Add Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

It’s the best SEO plugin for your blog. In the previous guide on SEO we covered the detailed items you want to take care of to make your blog optimized for organic search.

Yoast is a free plugin. That’s a bonus. It’s been downloaded nearly 7 million times as of this writing. With over 3,000 reviews it has nearly a perfect 5 out of 5 rating on WordPress.

You can do just about everything with this plugin when it comes to optimizing your blog posts.

Step 2 Add Google XML Sitemaps

Google XML Sitemaps is a simple plugin. You don’t have to do much to set it up, but it gives Google the information it needs to know what is on your site.

Step 3 Add W3 Total Cache

Site speed is a huge factor in website and blog success. People expect your site to load quickly. There is nothing more frustrating to someone than waiting and waiting for content to load. Too many WordPress blogs take too long to load.

Getting a quality WordPress host will be a big help, but adding the W3 Total Cache will add another layer of improvement.

Hunt For Links

For this section we’ll stick to how you can hunt for links for the blog posts you create.

Step 1 Go To Popular Blogs In Your Industry

Go to the popular blogs in your industry. You probably have a few that you know and follow already. To find a few more search for “your industry” + blog and you should get a good list of blogs to use.

Step 2 Look For Blogs That Publish Trackbacks

A common item used by most blogs is the trackback. This is a blog’s way of showing appreciation for a link. When another blog or website links to the post there is a trackback listed near the comments on the original post.

From your list of industry blogs, create a list of blogs that allow trackbacks.

Step 3 Find The Most Popular Posts On Those Blogs

From the list of blogs that allow trackbacks, look for the most popular posts. These will be the ones with the most social shares, comments and tracks.

Step 4 Create Content Better Than The Popular Posts

Now you know the type of posts that are popular with your target audience. Your goal now is to create blog posts that go beyond those popular posts. Add more valuable content to the topic with your blog post.

This will obviously take time, but it will be worth it because you’ll be able to build even more links than the original blog generated.

Step 5 Build A List Of People To Contact From The Trackbacks

Once you have your content created you can go back to the trackbacks and parse through the information. Some will be from smaller blogs that would be nice to get a link from, but not ideal. Others will be from huge websites that may or may not link to your post.

Then there is the sweet spot. These are the blogs in the middle that have pretty good clout, but aren’t big enough to ignore your emails.

Step 6 Email The Bloggers From The Trackback List

Once you have your list of sweet spot blogs you can email them letting them know about the new, amazing piece of content you’ve created.

Mention that you saw that they commented/linked to the original blog post. Then mention that you’ve taken the topic even further with an advanced or more in-depth post.

Leave it at that. If you’ve done a good job a few will link to your post.

For more on creating content that attracts links and where to hunt for links see the chapter on link building in the Advanced Guide To SEO.

Google Authorship

We went through the steps to setting up Google Authorship in the Google+ section in chapter 1. Just know that rich snippets improve click through rates increasing your traffic from organic search even if you don’t hold the top spot on a search result page.

Go through the steps to set it up on your blog. Check it with the testing tool from Google and your blog will be setup to have the kind of rich results people look for in the SERPs.

In Depth Articles And More

One of the recent updates to Google’s results was In-Depth Articles. These appear at the bottom of the SERPs for certain keyword phrases. Google will show a few in-depth article options for the result. These results will include an image, which we know with Google Authorship can increase clicks.

I wrote about in-depth articles in a blog post on Quick Sprout.

From that post you can see how to increase your chances of having blog posts listed in the in-depth articles section on Google’s result pages.

The big factors appear to be that longer articles and pieces of content have a higher chance of being included. We’re talking about articles that are 2,000+ words.

It also helps if the post is popular with plenty of social shares and links. So you’ll have to use the tips in this guide to promote your blog posts.

Putting It All Together

Organic search remains a major source of traffic for blogs. Following the tips in this chapter will help set your blog up for success with organic search.

In general, write in-depth articles that are seen as better than any other source of content by your target audience. If you create something better than everyone else you’ll have no issue achieving good results in the organic rankings.

Use WordPress and its free and premium plugins to optimize your blog, pages and posts. It can help clean up the content so you’re communicating correctly with the engines.

Finally, create the type of content that is most shared and linked to by your target audience and influencers in your industry. Links remain a major part of the organic search algorithms so getting those key links over time will benefit your blog.

The next step is to use paid options to market your blog. This is an area many overlook when it comes to promoting their blog content, but they’re missing out.

Ready to begin?