Are blogs still relevant for SEO?

Since the idea of blogging began back in the hazy days of the early 90s, with pioneer Justin Hall leading the way, they’ve slowly taken over the internet. Nowadays it seems every man and his dog has an area where they can express themselves, be it through sites like WordPress or Tumblr, or if they’re a particularly dedicated man/dog combo, their very own site & domain name. Blogging has become incredibly lucrative, with some plucky writers earning their entire income through the art, and large content-based companies managing to thrive through a combination of PR, paid advertising and a team of talented staff writers.

But it’s not just editorial businesses or lifestyle bloggers who have managed to make the format work for them – it’s also become a great way to drive SEO traffic to a website – regardless of the industry. However, you may question whether a blog really helps SEO that much, or whether it’s an outdated content marketing method. In this article, we will highlight all the reasons why you should still have a blog on your website & what it will do for your company in terms of SEO. Spoiler alert – the fact that I’m writing a blog about why you should write one should give you a hint!

Why do people blog?

Every year, writers churn out blog article after blog article proclaiming the death of the medium, with pithy click-bait titles like ‘Is blogging dead in 2018?’ proving that while blogging may be dead, irony certainly remains alive and kicking. In reality – from a business-sense at least – blogs are even more important than ever, with Google placing a great deal of value on sites that contain high-quality, relevant content.

Since 2011, the so-called Google Panda algorithm update has been addressing the issue of low-quality websites ranking. Since then there have been at least 28 updates to Panda. which have led to a crack-down on thin, duplicate & low-quality content, and a simultaneous impetus within the SEO world to encourage sites to write more valuable, long-form content aimed at providing a good user experience. Today, the Google search results pages feature a far higher amount of well-written, trustworthy sites, and they’re all the better for it.

Should I have a blog on my website?

In light of these relatively recent algorithm changes, given one of the biggest issues Google identified with sites was that they were ‘thin’ on content, this is where a blog can come in handy. There are many reasons why a blog can be useful to your site beyond this though:

1. They can drive new users to your site – By adding blog posts, you’re providing Google with more content that it can index. This content will allow your site to appear in more searches, particularly if you can write about topics which, though still relevant to your industry & brand, are not directly related to your product. 

2. Blogs provide a great trust signal to new users – showing that you’re engaged with your audience and your industry and that you’re transparent about company news and updates.

3. They can help to provide new link-building opportunities – the better the content you create and more engaging the articles, the more potential they have to be shared on other sites.  

While a blog may not drive the majority of your sales, or perhaps not every article you post will end up ranking or bringing in hundreds of views, the results are often more holistic in terms of what a blog will do for a company, and definitely not to be underestimated.

What makes SEO blog articles different?

Blog posting in SEO remains a popular technique to help websites improve their traffic and conversions as mentioned above. The main difference between a normal company news-style blog and an SEO marketing blog lies in the planning that goes into the two. If you want to get your blog on the Google search results, you have to do a little research before starting. It’s not enough to simply write articles that you think are interesting, or that you think others would be interested in too – sometimes the things an individual searches for do not translate to the masses.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t write for writing’s sake, or that these articles wouldn’t do well through other channels e.g. social, but in the world of SEO the aim would be to write with passion and creativity, but also with a strategy and an aim to drive organic traffic and conversions. Sometimes digital marketers and copywriters can come to blows over this delicate balance between maintaining artistic integrity and optimising a blog for SEO. However, with keyword-stuffing a thing of the past and with Google’s algorithm increasingly able to see value in well-written and engaging content, now is the perfect time to be able to do both. If you’ve got a strong copy-team, they shouldn’t find it hard to weave a few key phrases and terms into their work or make an article based around a semantically relevant query interesting.

How to optimise your blog for SEO

Whether your site already has a blog section you think could be better optimised, or you want to start from scratch, here are a few SEO blog tips to get you started & make the most out of your content:

1. As mentioned above, research your topic before writing. Firstly check you’ve not written something similar beforehand, to prevent cannibalisation issues. Then make sure there’s a search volume and ranking potential & make a list of keywords you can target and include in your text. Tools like SEOMonitor’s topical tool are a great way to find new niches. 

screenshot of SEO tool SEOMonitor

2. Make sure your permalink settings are user and Google friendly. Keep the structure simple like Often the default settings, particularly on WordPress CMS are not best practice and can look confusing.

3. Use descriptive URL slugs. Make sure words are separated with hyphens and the slug is short but descriptive, preferably with a few keywords included as well. I also tend to make sure I never include numbers in the slug either, in case a value used in the article should change in the future e.g. ‘Top 5 Holiday Destinations’ may become the top 6. In this case, I’d make sure the URL slug was ‘top-holiday-destinations’ to avoid a mismatch. 

4. Once written, format the text in user-friendly sections, and make use of keyword-rich headings – ideally the main title should be a H1 and all subtitles should be H2s.

5. Add internal and external links – if possible try to include a handful of internal links to other pages on your site – this helps to improve the crawlability of your site, and gives other articles or pages a better chance of being seen. Including a couple of external links to well-respected sites with high domain authorities who are writing about related topics can also help to provide relevancy clues to search engines.

6. Optimise your page title and meta description. Page titles should be around 55 characters, all in caps, and should describe to the user what the article is about – preferably with a keyword or two thrown in. Meta descriptions have recently seen some fluctuations in length, but including a couple of sentences of around 155-200 characters describing the article and including a call to action will stand you in good stead of improving your click-through-rate and rankings.    

7. Optimise any images used – make sure they’re scaled, optimised, and their file names are descriptive rather than generic. Also make sure you add an image alt tag which describes to the search engine what is shown in the picture – no need to keyword-stuff here – a brief, straightforward sentence will suffice. 

8. Once published share your article – be this through social media channels or through reaching out to other sites who may be interested in reading it, the best way to give your articles a quick boost is through promotion. While social shares have never been proven to be a direct ranking factor, if your blogs are gaining great social engagement, this should also improve your chances of great engagement through organic channels.  

Thus ends my most meta of blog posts about the value of blogging and whether it helps SEO! If you’d like some help writing SEO friendly blog posts or would like more general digital marketing advice for your business, get in touch with us today.

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    Chris Simmance, Marketing Consultant and International Keynote Speaker

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