Beginners guide to blogging and SEO

Your website is launched and you’re starting a blog. You know writing articles that are relevant to your business will help with SEO, although you may not be so sure how that works or how to go about it. Perhaps you’re still wondering ‘Does my business really need a blog?’ or ‘How do I optimise my blog posts for search engines?’ I can help. Here’s my beginner’s guide to blogging and SEO. If you sign up for my newsletter, you an also download my checklist that accompanies this post.

Before we get into the dos and don’ts of blogging, let’s first ask, does your business website need a blog? It depends. If you’re not convinced that starting a blog is right for you, and indeed it may not be, here are a few pros and cons.

Part 1: What is a blog?

Initially, a blog was a website that acted as an online journal with regular updates published as individual pages (known as posts) about a particular topic. My travel blog, Travel With Kat, is this type of blog.

A blog can also now be a section on a website where regular updates are posted, however, the blog is secondary to the main purpose of the website, such as with this blog for Arun Web Designs.

You might prefer to refer to your blog as a News, Inspiration, or Tips section. Consider what suits your business and what you plan to write about and name it accordingly. Whatever you call it, it still functions as a blog.

What is the difference between pages and posts?

The websites I design are built in a content management system called WordPress. Here you have the option to publish both new pages and new posts to your site. These serve different purposes and act in slightly different ways.

Pages make up the core of your website and contain all the important information about your business.

Posts make up your blog and are an optional addition to your website. To have a blog, you’ll need a page that is home to all your blog post archives. For Travel With Kat, this is my home page but for Arun Web Designs I’ve made a new page just for my blog posts and added a link to it from the menu of my site.

If you have a mailing list, you can set it up to automatically email new posts to your list. In contrast, any new pages you add to your website will not be sent to your mailing list (unless you do so manually).

I’ll cover setting up a mailing list in a future blog post. Sign up for my newsletter to get notified when I publish any new posts.

How often do I need to publish new blog posts?

How often you should post does rather depend on the reasons behind your blogging. I’ve started this blog primarily to help my existing clients but I’m not looking to build a large following of readers beyond that scope. I’ll only be adding occasional blog posts, as and when I have the time to do so.

In contrast, when I was building up my travel blog, where I was trying to grow as large a following as possible, I published a new blog post at least once a week for several years.

Will blogging benefit my business?

There is a wide range of benefits that blogging can bring to your business. It’s a great way to connect with your customers and to give them useful information that might appear cumbersome elsewhere on your website.

Blogging establishes you as an authority in your field

Writing articles that are relevant to your business helps establish you in the eyes of search engines (and your customers) as an authority within your field. Both the pages and blog posts of your website will rank higher in search engines as your online authority grows.

Blogging boosts your visibility online

Through your website, you should target specific keywords or phrases related to your business. These are the phrases that people type into search engines when looking for a business like yours. Blogging is a great way to grow the range of key phrases you target increasing the likely hood of people discovering you organically via search engines.

Blogging boosts your SEO through internal linking

While external links to your site from other websites raise your online authority, internal links are also important. As well as leading customers around your site, they also play an important role in SEO.

New blog posts give existing customers a reason to return to your website

Blogging about topics your customers are interested in gives them a reason to return to your website. Blogs are great places to announce new product ranges, services or special offers and as well detailed advice and tips.

Blogging helps build your mailing list

There are many ways to advertise your business, both paid and unpaid. Print advertising can be very expensive. Social media can be very effective with little monetary outlay but, it can be unpredictable. You could spend a great deal of time building a social media presence, but who sees the things you share depends on the algorithms controlled by the social media giants. A great deal is out of your hands. Worst of all though, occasionally channels close down completely, as did Stumble Upon and Google Plus.

Unlike social media, you own and have complete control over your mailing list. And a blog is a great way to entice people to sign up.

Promote interaction and gain feedback

With your blog, you have the opportunity to allow people to leave comments at the end of each blog post, which you can then reply to.

You can turn this function off entirely, however, the ability to leave comments gives your customers a voice and a chance to leave feedback and interact with you. A great way to enhance customer loyalty.

Create content for your social media posts

Blog posts are great for sharing on social media be it on your Facebook page, in your Instagram stories or a quick tweet on Twitter. Think about where your typical customer hangs out on social media and target those channels, just one or two to begin with.

Why would blogging not be right for my business?

  • Do you have plenty of customers already?
  • Do your customers typically discover you by word of mouth, via directories such as Yell.com or, if you are not solely an online business, by walking past your shop front?
  • Are you short on time?

If you answered yes, to all of the above, then setting up a blog right now is possibly not the best use of your time.

While it’s important to have a well-designed, fast loading, secure website where people can check your location, opening times, your services and prices etc, blogging is an optional extra and it is time-consuming. For most businesses, it is worthwhile.

One word of warning, any post, or page for that matter, on your website that gets no or very few visitors is actually bad for SEO and may negatively impact your ranking, so you need to write blog posts that people will want to read and optimise them for serach engines.

 

Part 2: Beginner’s guide to blogging and SEO

Blogging and SEO are vast topics. Here I’d like to share with you all the basics about what you need to know when optimising blog posts for search engines.

Targeting keywords and phrases

Keywords (or key phrases) are the phrases people type into search engines when looking for something. A website targets the keywords relevant to its content. Ask yourself “What will someone looking for a business like mine type into search engines?”

However, many keywords are very hard to rank for as there are a lot of websites already targeting those keywords. This means you are unlikely to appear on the first page of any search results unless your website can show authority in the topic you are targetting.

When you launch a new website, the authority that search engines assign to your website is low. Several things affect this. The age of your website is an important factor as older websites are seen to have more authority than new sites. The number of other sites linking to your site is another. The amount of relevant content on your site is also used as an indicator of your expertise on that subject.

It’s hard for a new website to rank for popular keywords. Be patient though and good things will come if you follow good practices. In the meantime, you might want to start by targeting less common key phrases.

For example, web designer would be a very hard key phrase to rank for.

If your customer base is local, then area-specific key phrases might work well for you such as web designer in Chichester.

If, however, your customer base is nation or even worldwide, more niche, non-area specific key phrases might be best. For example, small business web designer.

I’ll cover keyword research in more detail in a future post. You can sign up for my newsletter here.

The title of your blog post

Your blog post title (Fig.1.1) should be about six words long, as people tend to only read the first three and the last three words. Ideally, it should include your primary keyword but if it doesn’t this can be added later to your SEO title (see below).

The title is used to automatically generate the permalink to your post. The permalink is the blog posts’ address or URL.

In the below example (Fig.1.2), the URL or permalink is https://travelwithkat.com/bars-in-belfast/

This is made up of the protocol https:// plus the domain name travelwithkat.com followed by forward slash and the slug bars-in-belfast

Figure 1: The post title and permalink

1. Blog post title, 2. Blog post permalink

The slug should be manually edited to make it shorter if your blog post title is particularly wordy more importantly though, it should include your primary keyword, in this example ‘bars in Belfast’.

Using the Yoast SEO Plugin to improve Search Engine Optimisation

A plugin is a software add-on to your site that adds functionality. Using a plugin like Yoast SEO is a godsend when it comes to optimising your blog posts and targeting keywords. It uses a traffic light system with red being bad, orange being okay and green being good. This makes it easy to see straight away if you are on the right track when optimising your blog post for SEO.

All Arun Web Designs’ websites include the Yoast SEO Plugin even if they don’t have a blog, as it works the same way for all your website pages as it does for posts.

When editing a blog post, you’ll see a Yoast section, usually below the content of your blog post. Here you have a range of options to help optimise your post for search engines.

If you open the drop-down arrow under SEO Analysis, you’ll also see a list of tips to help you improve that particular blog post. Some will have a red bullet point by them, some orange and some green. Work through each point until as many as possible are green.

Figure 2: SEO Analysis

A second tab will show you tips on improving the readability of your blog post. The Schema tab always you to change the article type, although I rarely need to touch this. The Social tab allows you to add images and text specifically for promoting your post on Facebook and Twitter (see also ‘Adding images to your blog posts’ below).

The SEO title of your blog post

The SEO title (Fig.3.4) of your blog post is generated in WordPress from the title with the addition of the name of your website automatically added at the end. this will appear in search results and also when you share a post to social media channels such as Facebook.

If the SEO version of your blog post title is too long, the end will be cut off in search results. The Yoast plugin will highlight this if that is the case. You can edit the SEO title manually within Yoast to shorten it or to add in the primary keyword of your post if it wasn’t already in the title.


Figure 3: Yoast SEO

3.  Your chosen keyword, 4. Your SEO title, 5. The slug of your permalink, 6. Your meta description, 7. The preview of how your post will appear in search results (both on mobile and desktops). 

Please note, if you change the slug here (Fig 3.5) it will automatically change it in the permalink (Fig 1.2) and vice versa.

Adding a meta description

The Yoast SEO plugin can also be used to add a meta description (Fig 3.6). This should also include your primary keyword.

The importance of your Introductory paragraph

After your title, your introductory paragraph is the most important part of your post.

Firstly, it introduces the topic of your article, letting your readers know what they can learn from reading it and what problem you can solve for them.

Secondly, it should excite your reader, draw them in and encourage them to read more.

Thirdly, it must contain your key phrase, making it crystal clear what your blog post is about.

Using headings within your blog post

Using headings within your blog post can make a huge difference to its readability. An article with lots of headings breaks your text down into bite-size, manageable chunks and is far more appealing to your reader than a wall of text.

Headings act as signposts leading your reader on. Headings also help people scan your article, and find the content they are particularly interested in.

The hierarchy of your headings is important. When you highlight a portion of text you can set it to be either paragraph text, or a heading such as H1, H2 etc.

H1 signifies to search engines that this is the blog post title and displays on your website in large font size. The importance (and font size) of each heading decreases as the H1, H2 and H3 tag increases.

The title of your post is automatically set to H1. And you should not use H1 anywhere within the contents of your article, as this confuses search engines.

The first header within your article should always be H2. Subsequent headers can either be H2 or you can use H3 as a subheading under an H2 heading and so on. However, the steps should always be sequential, so you should never jump from H2 to H4, for example, without using H3 between them.

Adding images to your blog post

All blog posts need a featured image. This appears at the top of your post. It is displayed as a thumbnail on any page showing an archive of your blog posts as well as when you share the post on social media. I recommend a featured image size of 1200 pixels wide by 750 pixels high. This size works well for both your website and when someone shares the article on social media. If you wish to add text to your images, Canva is an excellent tool.

With the Yoast SEO plugin, you also have the option to upload separate images to replace the featured image when sharing to Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t add these then your featured image will be used by default but it’s a handy option if you want to use different images or you want to add text to the Facebook and Twitter images but not your featured image used n your website.

You should also add some relevant photos, graphics or videos scattered throughout the blog post to break up the text. You need to crop these images to the correct size before you upload them to your site.

The ideal size of these varies with the maximum width of your website and whether you wish to make the images as wide as possible. Remember, the bigger the images, the longer they take to load. Most importantly, you should be consistent throughout a blog post. I’ve used 1200 by 750 pixels for all the landscape (horizontal) images above. For portrait (vertical) orientated images I use a narrower width. The image below is 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels wide.

All your images should be optimised for the internet. You can do this through software such as Photoshop or via a Plugin to your site. I’ll cover this in detail in a future post.

Client note: All Arun Web Design websites will automatically optimise your image for you, however, you will still need to crop them to the right size before uploading them.

 

Vintage wooden desk with open laptop and overlay in words saying 'Beginner's guide to blogging and SEO'

 

Part 3: Blogging and SEO Checklist

I hope you found this beginners guide to blogging and SEO useful. Sign up for my newsletter to receive my free downloadable Blogging and SEO Checklist to make sure you’re on the right track every time you publish a new blog post.

By Kathryn Burrington,
Arun Web Designs

Kathryn has over ten years of experience in blogging and more than twenty years in graphic design. In 2017, she won the Britsh Guild of Travel Writers' Blogger of the Year Award for her blog, Travel With Kat.

Having spent many years designing websites, Kathryn launched Arun Web Designs in autumn 2021.

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