The Complete SEO Steps To Optimizing Your Post For Users And Search Engines

I’ve been asked this question over and over and so I’d to make another post about it. Today's post is focused on the fundamentals of SEO and online marketing for bloggers. If you're just getting started with a new blog, or even if you're a seasoned writer looking for a quick refresher on SEO best practices, this post is for you. 

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Starting a blog is quite easy, even writing your first post is simple and fun. But what does it take to become a successful blogger with a huge army of dedicated readers? You have to also know that writing only for users may not be the only thing to look out for. You also need to write for search engines so you can also get readers coming from there. Also note that focusing on writing only for search engines and ignoring your fan base is also not encouraging. Hence, you have to have the two in mind.

With over 31 million bloggers in the US alone,  more than 2million in Nigeria and more in other countries, the competition makes it really hard to stand out from the crowd and attract new readers and subscribers. No matter how good you are at crafting content, there's one thing you just can't abandon — a solid and proven optimization routine. 

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So, here are some great steps to follow in order to optimize your posts for users and even search engines:

1. Brainstorm ideas, set goals, and research keywords: First things first — how do you come up with new catchy ideas? If you blog on a regular basis, I bet you've already hit the point when the words just dry up. The good thing is that inspiration may come just as you're doing regular keyword research for your posts. Here are the steps I'd strongly recommend you to follow before you start writing:

- Determine the goal and the audience of your new post: Do you want to attract a new audience? Do you need to convince your existing subscribers about anything? Or are you planning to share some big news that will hopefully get lots of retweets and likes? Whatever your goals are, get certain about them before you start writing. This way, you'll be able to determine the related metrics (sign-ups, social signals, sales, etc.) and later on measure them.

For instance, your goals may look the following way:

  • Get in the top 10 search results in Google for the "How To Know A Girl Loves You" keyword.
  • Achieve at least 50 sign-ups.
  • Get 1,000 unique page visitors per month.
  • Earn $1,500 on affiliate commissions.
  • Increase your social media following by 10%.

I advice you don’t skip this step — it's vital for your blogging success and it's the only way to learn if you're getting better or worse at writing and promoting. 

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- Find 3-5 related key phrases that have similar search intent: There are a great number of keyword research guides on the internet and most of them focus on these 3 main steps:

  • Write a seed list of starting terms.
  • Extend this list using keyword research tools.
  • Refine your list using competitive research.

Sounds easy? Well, it's a bit more complicated when you get down to it. Nowadays search engines tend to gravitate more and more to semantic search. Today's web users are searching with a different set of queries. Five years ago, a user could search for "buy used computers online" while today's searcher may use voice-activated search assistants and say, "find me online PC stores with biggest discounts".

So how do we find these semantically related groups of key phrases? Rank Tracker can help you with the task.  

Let’s say you're in the mood for writing a post on "how to choose an apartment to buy." In Rank Tracker's Keyword Research module click the Suggest button, pick Google AdWords Keyword Planner (you may choose other sources later to expand the list) and type in your keyword — "how to choose an apartment to buy" in this case. After Rank Tracker finishes collecting keyword ideas, you'll see them neatly organized in groups. Just by looking at these groups of phrases, One can mark out the structure of a future post (or posts if it's going to be a series):

  • Is buying an apartment a good investment?
  • An apartment or a house — which is better?
  • Questions to ask when viewing an apartment.
  • Flat buying checklist.
  • Apartment hunting tips.
  • Things you need for your first apartment.

Not enough ideas? Click again on the Suggest button and pick another option — Google Autocomplete, Related Searches, Competition Research, etc. Select the keywords that are most relevant to your topic and add them to your Keyword Map.

- Check your keywords for traffic and competition: You should have an extensive list of keyword ideas by now, but how do you choose the 3-5 phrases for the post? You'll need to take a closer look at keyword metrics and select the queries with the highest potential. Generally, you should look at:

  • Search volume
  • Competition
  • Keyword difficulty

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Keywords with high search volume and low to moderate competition are the best, but sometimes you may see that all keyword ideas have high competition. In this case, you need to dig deeper and discover how difficult it really is to rank for this key phrase.

So, using Rank Tracker, go to Target Keywords — > Keyword Map. Select the words you want to analyze and press Update Keyword Difficulty.

You'll see a keyword difficulty score next to each keyword — the higher the score, the harder it'll be to rank. Below the score, there's a list of the top 10 websites ranking for the query; it showcases a variety of metrics, such as the number of backlinks, on-page optimization score, the number of social media signals, domain age, etc. Take an unbiased look at these stats and choose the keywords you'll be able to rank for.

2. Create and optimize your post: Now that you know whom you're targeting and which questions you're going to answer, it's time to get creative and write the post.

These steps will guide you:

- Choose a good topic for your post: If you're still hesitating about the topic of your post, keep in mind the top 3 popular categories of blog posts:

a) to answer a question,

b) to provide a numbered list (checklist),

c) to provide a guide or a how-to tutorial.

Well, the above are not all that is in a blog post but they are the major things. It might be a good idea to look at your competitors' content and see how you can provide value that's different from what other people have created. For instance, you can share some unique opinions on the topic, or provide new stats you've collected, or present case studies with interesting findings.

If you feel stuck for any topic ideas, here are some more ways to discover them:

  • Analyze the comment section (I do that a lot). Did you spot the questions that pop up more often? Write them down and think of really good detailed answers to these questions.
  • If you're active on social media websites (and you should be!), ask your followers what they'd like to learn from your next post.
  • Take a look at the related forum discussions — which topics get more comments and answers?

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What I'm saying is that you have to identify a need or a problem that many people have, and then work on the profound answers and solutions to it.

- Plan to add different types of content: Now you should also think about the types of content you'll add to your posts. To make your content more useful, consider adding images, videos, graphs, polls, quotes, infographics, and links. One more thing, don't be afraid to put links to useful sources — readers won't flee from your website, instead, they'll see your blog as a credible and informative resource they can rely on (and link to!).

- Make your post readable: Finally, when you're done with the stream of consciousness, turn off the screen, go for a walk, get a coffee, come back to your post and take another look at what you've created. Does it look simple to read, and more important — is it scannable enough? If you can't scan the post you've written yourself, there's little chance other people will. Here's what you can do to improve this:

  • Break up your content with subheads.
  • Add bulleted lists.
  • Create deep captions for your images and graphs.
  • Highlight the most important parts and call-to-actions.

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Surely you may ask yourself "How is this related to SEO?" It is. If visitors coming to read your post bounce immediately, that may negatively count for site's rankings. Many SEOs believe user behaviour signals are becoming more and more significant for search engines, and you shouldn't ignore them in your blogging practice. 

For help on writing better blog posts, this post covers the basics like brainstorming ideas and improving readability to optimizing headline length and tweaking for search engine visibility. I'll recommend you check it out and see what tips you can pick from there.

- Optimize on-page elements: Let's look again at the list of keywords you've picked for the post. Make sure the most important keyword (the highest search volume with moderate competition) goes exactly matched in page's title, headline, body and possibly URL. After that, you can use two to four secondary key phrases in such elements, as

  • content (pay special attention to the first two paragraphs),
  • meta description,
  • images' alternative texts,
  • subheadings,
  • link anchors.

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There's no absolute formula on how many keywords you should use in the post, but be careful not to over-optimize your pages. Otherwise, your blog can be hit by Google's Panda penalty.

So how to estimate the number of keywords to use? The safest way is to analyze the search results and see how the competing blogs are using the terms you target. You can either do it manually, by clicking on each result and searching for the keywords in a browser. Or you can check that quickly in Website Auditor. Under the Page Audit tab (in the Content Analysis module), you will see the average keyword usage stats of your top ranking competitors and where your website lags behind or, on the contrary, goes overboard with keyword usage. By switching to the Content Editor tab, you can add or remove extra keywords and see the stats recalculated for you as you type. After you finish optimizing the page, you can save it by clicking Save page and then upload to your server. 

- Proofread the post: Well, this one's obvious. Nobody will take you seriously if you often mix up "weather" and "whether," “sell” and “sale,” or "affect" and "effect," and many others. If you can't be careful with your words and grammar, why should anyone trust you? I wish I could tag someone to this post now so he could read this! For Fod’s sake, what’s the big deal in going through your work over and over? Well, if you feel that lazy, there are many softwares or website to help you with that. For instance. Spelling and autocorrect built in Microsoft Word Office can help. Yes, there is bound to be one mistake or the other, but they shouldn’t be obvious careless ones!

When proofreading your post, make sure you check this 3 main aspects:

  • spelling,
  • grammar,
  • consistency.

You can also use such tools as Hemingway App and Grammarly, or hire a freelance proofreader to get this task done faster (I can help).

- Make sure the post is mobile-friendly: You already know how Google is obsessed with all that mobile-friendliness thing. And there's a good reason for that — with over 60% of all traffic now being mobile, Google decided to create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users. So, if you've ignored the mobile-friendly craziness all this time, it's possible your blog already looks good on smartphones, or you just don't care if your rankings suffer! My advice, use mobile-friendliness checkers online and see how well your site is ranking there. View your mobile version yourself and see if it's easy to navigate. Check your template for any adjustment.

3. Plan outreach and link building: Ironically, the most complicated steps follow right after you hit "publish". It's time for the world to learn about your masterpiece and share it across the social media networks. As you may guess, it won't happen automatically, so let's see how you can ensure your post gets the desired attention and backlinks:

- Make it easy to share your post: Obviously, you should place the social media icons on your page and don't be shy — ask your readers to share the post and express their opinion in the comments. An interesting question here is where exactly you should place social sharing buttons on your page.

AddThis social sharing tool provides some insight on this question. They recommend to:

  • Pick a prominent position.
  • Keep your button near the top of the page.
  • Place the button in close proximity to the content being shared.
  • Watch out for navigation.
  • Avoid putting sharing in the footer.
  • Avoid putting sharing below the fold.

Also, keep in mind that "near-zero" sharing buttons can provide negative social proof. What this means is that you should not use social ss especially if you don’t have a massive audience. So as not to discourage readers when they see 0 or 5 shares. So if you're afraid your numbers will look too low, consider adding the buttons without a counter:

- Share your post on social media and bookmarking sites: Use the power of Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest etc to let the world know your new post is out. Create multiple titles and descriptions for your social media posts, so you'll be able to share them regularly across a variety of networks. In addition to the popular social media networks, you may also submit your post to the social bookmarking sites and online communities like:

If you want to find other niche-specific sites, go online and search for them. Note, you have to focus more on categories related to your niche.

- Place links on older posts:

If you have relevant posts that you've already published, why not put some links (and even redirects) there pointing to the new content? That's a win-win case — people reading older posts will be able to discover this new piece, while the search engines will index and rank the new post faster. You can also add old links in new posts too.

- Reach out to influencers: First of all, if you've mentioned a person or a company in the new post, let them know about it. You can do that through the following ways:

  • Send an email if you've already communicated with this influencer. Just give a heads up, don't be pushy about sharing your post.
  • @Mention them in a tweet.
  • Mention them in a Google+ post.

The chances are quite high that the mentioned person will share your post: The second option is to get in touch with influencers who already know you and share your content. You'll need to use a social media monitoring tool, such as Awario, to see who's talking about you and your blog. Create a new alert for your blog's URL or name and let the tool collect the mentions from the whole web: Mark out the social media accounts with the highest reach and get in touch with their owners. Once again, there's no need to plead to share your post — instead, you should outline why this post can be useful to the person's followers and subscribers.

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Lastly, do not expect to get instant results after you follow all the above steps — most probably, you'll need to repeat the routine for dozens of posts to see what's exactly working for you. It may happen that you'll need about 30 minutes for keyword research and on-page optimization, and a day or two to promote the post on social media sites and communities. The important thing is to experiment and analyze. And then one day, you'll just see that most of your posts keep getting new traffic, backlinks, and higher rankings.

Remember, SEO is all about patience and persistence. I hope you'll enjoy using these tips and I will also love to hear what you have tried that has worked for you below!


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