When we launched our expert roundup about SEO trends in 2017, some of the answers by the SEO experts that we tapped got me thinking about our own blog optimization strategies in general.
Through the years, SEOs have written a variety of how-to guides about optimizing blog posts. Things such as having to mention a keyword at least once in a title, once in Heading 1, at least thrice in a paragraph, and in image descriptions and alt text, have become basic and reliable advice.
But for this article I want to share a guide for something a little bit more macro scale. How do you optimize a whole blog?
From optimizing blog posts to interlinking existing posts, repurposing content, and processing images, let me share with you the straightforward blog optimization strategies we implement to maintain our over 40k traffic at the NinjaOutreach blog.
Rule Number One: Keep White Hat Strategies
Overall, we play it safe and never engage in black or gray hat activity.
As I say, it’s never a good idea to try to game the search engines for a quick buck. Once they catch up, all the work goes to waste and you’ll have to do it all over again.
Invest in white hat strategies so your site, for the most part, can weather any Google update and maintain your hard-earned traffic.
With that reminder out of the way, let’s move on to other methods.
Creating and Optimizing New Content
We don’t create content haphazardly. We maintain a content strategy folder and a calendar on Google docs, while we have an ongoing topic ideas thread on Trello.
Suggesting topic ideas
People submit topic idea suggestions on Trello.
On the Trello cards, they input their rationale for how writing about the topic would benefit our blog. They would also add their ideas for how to effectively promote the post.
Preparing article topics
The content strategy folder is where we put drafts of approved topics.
Each document contains the topic idea, a short outline, a purpose, contact details of experts or influencers we plan to interview for the article, and comments or other instructions from the people involved in the article.
We then review again by eye for other improvements.
We use simple words and shorter paragraphs; ideally three mid-length sentences per paragraph, or at most four to five simple sentences.
We avoid large blocks of text by breaking long sections into sub-headers.
Our content calendar is where we plot the publishing schedule for our articles. It also contains a checklist of processes that we need to clear off during the cycle of preparation, publication, optimization, and promotion.
Once the content is ready and has passed editing, we paste the Google doc link under the appropriate date and mark the first section as done.
Once the text content has been edited, it is then optimized further for SEO. We use the Yoast real-time content analysis free tool for this.
We input our focus keyword and house it in the title, meta description, and URL. We follow other suggestions of the tool until the SEO score mark on the upper right-hand corner turns orange or green.
We make sure every article has one main featured image, and at least one to three other relevant images, preferably graphs, charts, or screenshots of processes and tools described in the article.
These images should come with proper descriptions. (And yes, we try to include the keywords whenever possible and relevant.)
In terms of size, these days, we try to keep all our images below 750px. This is to make sure the pages have better loading times.
Any images that go over our requirements tend to slow down the page, which is not good for SEO and for users, in general.
Adding outbound links
We find that linking to other high authority sites is not only good for our readers but good for SEO as well. So, we try to add lots of outbound links to these credible sources in our articles. We also link to other content our team has published elsewhere.
Interlinking related articles
We also practice proper interlinking of related articles within our blog. For example, when I wrote about how to do an expert roundup post, I linked to another in-house blog post I wrote detailing a case study on how to write an expert roundup that gets hundreds of shares.
Strong backlinks are par for the course, especially if we have a major article we want to promote.
We use our tool, NinjaOutreach, for reaching out and promoting to prospects who may be interested in spreading word about the value of our article.
Uploading to backend
Once the content has been uploaded to the backend, optimized for SEO, and scheduled to be published on our CMS (we check off the corresponding process sections), we then move on to our promotion processes.
The promotion process covers several sections:
- First, we schedule push notifications.
- Second, we share on our own social media (Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn).
- Third, we build a list of other people who were mentioned in the article, have published, or have shared similar articles.
- Fourth, we reach out to notify these people via email and tag them on social media as well.
Once we’ve checked off all promotion processes, we move on to progress tracking.
We file the goo.gl and UTM links we used for our articles into our database for tracking.
We review our performance in our weekly, monthly and, eventually, in our annual review meetings.
We hone our strategies according to these performance results.
Optimizing older content
Not all articles we published in the past remained valuable. In fact, some articles lost relevance after a few months.
We periodically review our old articles’ performance to make sure any older, lower-value articles don’t drag our blog authority down.
Combining weaker articles into bigger, stronger ones
There are some articles that provide decent value but, on their own, do not generate enough traffic. We find other related articles and combine these to create a longer, stronger post.
Combing for broken links
Broken links or dead URLs are bad for users, so we use our own variety of tools to comb through our blog for any of these dead links. Once found, we then either remove them or replace them with another quality alternative.
To keep from accidentally linking to bad sites we go through all our outgoing URLs every few months.
All the relevant URLs get whitelisted in our tool (which has an automatic nofollow feature for all outgoing links). That’s the only time when we dofollow the whitelisted URLs.
Re-launching older content
This is an ongoing process where we look into Google Analytics and Search Console to identify older articles that could do with some optimization. We look for certain characteristics, such as high impressions but low click-through rate, or high pageviews but high bounce rate. We file these articles in a sheet and optimize them once more (fix formatting, add more images, add more useful content, etc). When done, we republish them and measure performance improvements.
Optimizing blog design
Text is not everything, so we also include design in our blog optimization strategies.
We make sure that our blog is optimized for mobile. So we avoid any designs that contain tiny text. If you look at our blog homepage, you’ll see that we put our main nav bar on top and center, making it easier for mobile users (typically with smaller screens) to access. Our CTA is top and center as well, while our comments section is neatly tucked in the bottom center.
Article archives design
For our article archives, instead of focusing solely on text headlines, we use larger image thumbnails to accompany the titles.
You’ll also see the blog topics are not arranged in typical list type categorized by date. Instead, they are arranged in blocks and categorized by topic. The format makes it easier for mobile users to navigate.
Tags and Categories
Instead of small, text type tags and categories, we use text buttons. We keep tags for the back end and have a list of common tags and categories we should all use.
We use text buttons for categories. Like our image thumbnails, these text buttons are less visually exhausting. Again, a good format for mobile users.
Dates and author profiles
We don’t include the author names and dates in the blog posts preview archive. This does away with extra text clutter. The user can only view the author and publish date once the post has been clicked.
Post formatting and ad placement
Our blog posts are formatted simply and centered. We use a medium sized font and place only one to two banner ads—a plug for our tool’s free trial within the article.
Besides those plugs, we do not place ads in our blog post’s side bars.
We place our CTA top and center, and another one at the bottom, before the author profile.
Rinse and repeat
So there you have it. An uncomplicated, walkthrough of our very own blog optimization strategies as we practice them at NinjaOutreach. Basically, we go through this process in a cycle, and it has done well for us so far. Got any questions, suggestions? Please share with us in the comments below.
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* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com