January 25, 2018

Why most blog posts never get read and how to optimise yours to help it get more traffic

Updated June 2018

Average read time: 13 minutes

There’s few marketing catch phrases that make me cringe more than “content is king”. I stopped counting the number of times I saw it quoted after number 481 (ok, not really but you get the point).

However, the reason I find that so annoying is the same reason I see it quoted so often: because it is true.

The benefits of writing blog post are too many to list here, but I will give it a try:

  • More opportunities for generating leads
  • Establish authority in your niche
  • Fodder for your Social Media properties
  • Express your views
  • Demonstrate thought leadership (another close-to-becoming-cringeworthy term)
  • Gets Google to visit your site more often and an increase in crawl rate is good for your SEO
  • Increase your website/blog’s repeat visit levels (Google likes websites which users come back to)

What’s missing in the list? Driving traffic.

And, that’s because content written for its own sake hardly gets read. To give you an idea of what I mean, take a look at the graph below:

On average, approx. 70% of the new organic visitors to the blogs are driven by just 20% of the blog post which means 80% of the posts never really see the light of the virtual day.

Why is that you ask? In my experience, it is because most of blog posts have been written for the purposes of keeping a blog up-to-date or sharing something on social media and not so much with SEO and/or conversions in mind and without a strategy to begin with, there’s little chance of your blog posts doing anyone any good.

I have put together this short guide containing SEO tips for your next blog post which can serve somewhat as a checklist of your future blog posts.

Decide on your target search terms

If you’re writing blog posts not just as a brand building exercise but to also help you generate leads and traffic, just like with your website pages, you need to have a keyword strategy for each blog post in mind, before you begin writing it.

Start by selecting no more than 2-3 long tail keywords as the target for each blog post. You don’t want to stuff it with keywords and aim to use it approx. once every 250 words.

At the same time, use synonyms for the target keywords as well because Google’s semantic search is now pretty competent at picking up different words/phrases with the same meaning and assigning rankings accordingly.

Make sure you use the target keywords at least once within the first 2 paragraphs of your blog post via a h1 or h2 tag.

Assigning relevant h tags to all the headings within your blog posts is important if you want it to have any chance of getting position 0 i.e. getting featured in the featured snippet

Our sister website Digital Restaurant in the featured snippet for ‘restaurant table management’. How’d we do that? By using the very same techniques described above

Size (of your post) matters

Although, quality will generally trump quantity when it comes to SEO, when it comes to the length of your blog post, quantity is almost as important for several reasons:

First off, one of the ways Google determines the usefulness of a piece of content is to look at a metric called Long Click.

Simply put, this is the amount of time the user spent on a page after having gone to it from the search results and whether they hit the back button to visit another search result and if so, after how long. Ideally, Google wants to not have the user come back to view another result as not only does that mean the page satisfied the query but also that Google’s top result was highly relevant. What all of this has to do with length count is that in most cases longer pieces of content generally fare well on this metric.

Second, lengthier blog posts will typically have to be better researched which not only means it is likely to improve your Long Click rate but your Bounce Rates are going to be lower which is yet another ranking factor.

In terms of the word count, is there a magic number?

A/B tests Neil Patel carried out on copies with 1400 words vs 500 found that the lengthier copy not only got more views but also generated more conversion. The folks over at Yoast say they’ve had the best results from blog posts containing more than 2500 words. Medium’s magic number seems to be 1600.

From the data Flow20 analysed 1200 words per blog post seems to be a good target to keep in mind.

Shorter blog posts generally don’t have great engagement unless they were quite specialised or covered a niche topic.

Which brings me to the next point….

Large fish, small pond

One of the best pieces of strategic advice Matt Cutts, ex head of Google’s web spam team ever gave was on how to stand out by focusing on small market segments where it is easier to establish your brand as a leader.

Whilst this may or may not apply to you strategically, when it comes to choosing your blog post topics, this should be one your deciding factors.

Rather than choosing snooze-inducing topics such as tips on making money, how to clean your oven and ways to save on your next holiday, spending the time to research topics that are topical or perhaps, likely to be of interest to your audience.

If your posts can draw inspiration from your personal or business experience then that’s even better as that’ll make your content truly unique.

Here are some tools to help you find interesting ideas for your next blog post:

See a more comprehensive list at SEO.com.

Ubersuggest long-tail suggestions

A Twitter search for #mortgages brings back tweets that mention this topic on Twitter. From these results, you may get the idea to write a post about how buying a home is still cheaper than renting a home – for now anyways.

Make it well researched and cited

Unless you’re a SEO professional and know the value of outbound linking, you might be reluctant to include links to other websites, possibly competitors to cite a piece of research or reference in your blog post thinking your posts will lose some of the link juice.

However, this is a big mistake as one of the ways Google can determine the credibility of a blog post by looking at how well it is researched and cited and there’s no better way to do that than linking relevant pieces of text to the research material.

Here’s another excerpt from Search Engine Land’s article on creating quality content:

“Credible: Show your site’s credibility by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials. An author biography or testimonials from real customers can help boost your site’s trustworthiness and reputation.”

On a sidenote: don’t forget, the more you link out, the more likely you’re going to get linked to (which is great for SEO), not to mention you’re increasing your brand exposure.

Source: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy

Say goodbye to stock images

Using descriptive images is a proven way to grab your visitor’s attention and reduce your article’s bounce rates and if you’ve been using stock images mostly until now, it is time to put in a little more effort when it comes to choosing the images that’ll accompany the text.

Real images not only have higher click-through rates but they also give more authenticity to a blog post.

Using stock images within your blog posts might be the easier option but is seldom the best one.

And, that’s it!

If you’re serious about making your content help you in your SEO efforts you might want to actively start tracking new keywords for each blog posts in a position tracking software such as SEMRush or Moz or one of the several hundred others out there.

Don’t be afraid to test different lengths and word counts and comparing that against your rankings and amount of traffic each blog post is driving to understand how your website’s own domain authority and audience will impact the effectiveness of your SEO and how many of your blog posts are seen, read and hopefully, shared.

Was that too long to read? Here’s what we covered:

  • How much traffic do blog posts usually get
  • Defining your blog post’s keyword strategy
  • Keeping them of appropriate length
  • Finding good topics to write on
  • Increasing your content’s credibility
  • Stock vs real images