I’m a firm believer in creating remarkable content that will serve a company’s long-term needs and garnering natural links through an authentic amplification process.
This process involves sharing the content across social channels, owned and other’s newsletters, and by reaching out to authors/journalists that can benefit by linking to those articles, to name a few.
The ultimate way to develop ongoing shareable content is through a blog.
A blogging campaign done correctly takes much effort, patience, discipline, and money.
Quality blogs are key for strong SEO – the more content, the more search engines, and users will understand that you’re an authoritative voice within your industry – if not the only authoritative voice.
Blogging is long-term thinking to build long-term success.
Be warned – this is not for what Simon Sinek calls the “finite” business thinker; rather it’s for the “infinite” business thinker who understands that quality takes time.
Remarkable blogging is not simple. The effort needed for quality – not quantity – content is tremendous.
The process involves an overall SEO and content strategy, along with disciplined writers who are skilled in both traditional and online writing techniques with subject expertise.
The following 101 tips were created to skyrocket your blogging efforts. These tips focus on SEO, craft, style, UX, amplification and productivity elements.
These were designed for quick digestion, and since I’m targeting an audience who understands SEO – or even just the basics of SEO – I’ll keep the deeper thinking to the internal links throughout.
SEO Blog Writing Tips
1. Blog Life Begins with Keyword Research
Unless you have an audience like Seth Godin, or already have a stupidly large and engaged audience, you can’t forget about keyword research.
Blogging allows you to target loads of keywords.
Learn keyword research, and use it for every blog. And target one or two main keywords for each article.
Protest against lack of keyword research!
2. Target Long-Tail Keywords
Blogs can gather their most energy through long-tail, low-volume keywords.
If your website sells aftermarket Ducati parts, the short-tail, high-volume keywords can be the focus of your main category pages.
But the long-tail can allow you to truly target long-tail keywords, such as “ducati 1198 s marchesini wheels.”
3. Remember Related Keywords
Don’t forget about “related” keywords. Over the past three years, my team has had the most success with SEMrush for easily finding related keywords.
Use the ones that pertain to the content of the article – and use them naturally.
Back to Ducati 1198 as a keyword; a list of related keywords that would benefit the article are “ducati 1198 hp” (hp means horsepower); “ducati 1198 evo,” and “ducati 1198 for sale.”
4. Use Target Keyword in Title
Use the main target keyword in the heading, as close to the beginning as possible.
Keep the headline 50-60 characters because search engines truncate after 60.
5. Create Awesome Titles
Put as much time into crafting your titles as you do the articles.
The best headlines:
Ask funny questions.
Create a sense of urgency.
Show “How To” do something.
6. Strong Meta Description
If you don’t create a meta description, the search engines will auto-fill one. This is a loss of valuable real estate.
You can create a strong message here to support your awesome headline and enhance click-throughs to your story over the competitors.
Protest auto-generated meta descriptions – and keep the character count to 150-160 characters max!
7. Use Target Keyword in Meta Description
Use the same targeted keyword in your title in the meta description.
Again, try to get that targeted keyword as close to the beginning as possible.
Remember that though there is no ranking value for keywords in meta descriptions if someone queries your target keyword – or others that are in your meta description – that keyword will display bold, increasing the risk of a click.
Only use the target keyword once.
8. Use Keywords in Image Alt Text
It’s amazing how many clients I see that have zero alt text descriptions.
If they do they typically lack keywords.
Make sure to use keywords within your alt text – especially the target keyword of the blog.
9. Strong Header Tags
Forget the SEO benefits of header tags (also known as headline or H tags) when blogging, and just think of them as sub-topics that preview the upcoming with an exciting title.
Try writing them like individual taglines to each section.
Note that some header tags for articles like this will be used for bullet-point type items that do not need as much crafting.
This is also an ideal place to insert stronger related keywords.
10. Don’t Force Keywords – Use Them Naturally
Use the target keyword and related keywords naturally throughout the text.
Don’t mind things like antiquated talk of keyword density; use keywords naturally.
If you were overusing a keyword, the issue will quickly surface during editing – especially a speak-out-loud edit.
11. Internal Linking
Use internal links within your blog naturally and with the correct anchor text.
Internally link to deeper content like other blogs or white papers, and avoid linking to the homepage or contact us page.
Best practices for how many?
Again, insert them naturally.
For a 1,500-plus word blog, you can easily fit 15 or so. Just insert them naturally.
12. External Linking
Make sure to attribute any used sources within your blogs by externally linking to the respective web page.
Use strong anchor text, and use do-follow links.
Also, make sure the link opens in a new tab or window.
13. Use Bold & Italics to Send Strong Signals
Bold and italics not only attract the attention of the users, but it also sends signals to search engines that you are placing a priority on the word or phrases.
Use them when necessary – and naturally.
14. Use Bullet Points Whenever Possible
This opens the space between text, and is easier for readers to digest.
Plus, like bold and italic text, bullet points also send signals of prioritized sections to search engines.
15. Long Over Short
Based on statistics, longer blog posts are much better than shorter ones for SEO purposes.
Backlinko says the average word count of a Google Page 1 result is 1,890 words. But blogs of 500 words also rank high on Google.
First, consider the target audience.
Writing 2,500 words about the craft of blogging warrants more words, whereas a blog comparing three sets of guitar strings may take about 1,000, and a blog about a new dog food may take 500.
Don’t go crazy over length.
Write until you say what you want to say – and again, naturally.
Once writers get focused on word count the fluff begins.
Protest the puff!
Yes, this blog is about blogging tips. But I also need to address some of the basics of the website itself, the first being make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
A quick look at the list of 10 of my client’s analytics and mobile is on average 65% of their traffic.
If your blog isn’t optimized for mobile, you’ll miss out on some serious readership.
17. Strong Technical Platform
Second in addressing the platform is strong overall technical SEO.
Mobile-friendless would be part of this, but for blogging, mobile needed to stand alone.
18. Optimize WordPress Categories/Tags
One more note if you’re using WordPress.
Make sure your categories aren’t sloppy or overlapping and don’t use crazy amounts of them.
The same should be said of tags.
And my team noindex most tags unless a few that are important and benefit search engine results.
19. If on WordPress, Use Yoast
Yoast is a must-have tool for WordPress users.
The free version allows you to customize your meta description and title tag, and also creates XML sitemaps and provides a score about the target keyword usage.
The paid version only gets better.
Craft/Style Blog Writing Tips
20. Research First
When many think about how long a blog takes to complete, they only think about the act of writing.
But an equal amount of energy – or more contingent on subject matter – should be placed into research.
Yes – reading and browsing valuable websites is part of the writing process.
Make it vital!
21. Competitive Research
Have awareness about what the competitors are doing, but don’t study them.
The more you study competitors, the more you’ll sound like them.
When it comes to keywords, though, competitive research is an absolute must.
It’s simple reverse engineering – find what keywords a blog is ranking well for, and create better content.
22. Don’t Plagiarize
Somehow, plagiarism continues. I’ve witnessed it happen with freelancers and in-house blog writers.
I work with dozens of freelancers and use Copyscape for the few pieces. I did encounter some copy/paste incidents in the past – one new writer literally cut up a few blogs and rearranged them.
This was for one of my clients – the copy all came from my client’s direct competitors, which would have caused some major harm.
Be smart. Use Copyscape or the paid version of Grammarly.
23. Create List of Optimized Titles
Once your keyword research is complete, brainstorm and create a list of proposed titles.
Walk away for a day and return to that list, weeding out anything that doesn’t add value, though most times the process involves some risk.
24. Create a ‘Loose’ Content Calendar
Create a content calendar. My team typically creates quarterly “loose” content calendars so there is some wiggle room for news items, new products or services, or the inevitable last-minute ideas that show up.
25. Write with Ending in Mind
Though this may change, have a rough focus of what you want to see happen.
Literally imagine the action you want a reader to take, whether it’s a newsletter signup, buy a product, find out more about a service, or start a riot.
Literally imagine the ending – and keep it in mind as you’re writing.
26. Outline Blog
This organizes and speeds the process. My outline is simple:
Sub-topics (header tags) organized
I then fill in each point with some stream of consciousness style (yeah, Kerouac was an idol in my 20s) notes.
If blogs are planned in advance (as they should), I continually add notes over a two-day period and revisit them with a fresh mind on the third day.
It’s amazing how smooth and effortless the process works.
27. Write Whatever Works First
Once the outline discussed above is complete, write whatever section you want first.
There should be no hierarchy or priority in draft mode; if you have the energy for an intro, write it.
Subtopics? Write them.
Concluding thoughts? Write them.
All will come together smoothly and in a more organized fashion during the equally – sometimes more important – editing stage.
28. Page Setup
I learned this during an online workshop with Charles Euchner, author of another must-read for writers, “The Elements of Writing”.
Always set your document up in portrait mode.
This stretches out the work, and provides more space and longer lines. This all psychologically strengthens your energy for writing.
29. Line-by-Line First Drafts
I also learned this from Euchner, and it has become one of my favorite techniques for writing.
When in draft mode, write everything line-by-line.
Again this spaces the words and ideas, allowing you to think clearer.
Combine the paragraphs during a later draft.
30. Attention-Grabbing Intro
Just as important as the blog’s title and meta description is the intro – or what us traditionally trained journalist used to call a “lede”.
Entertain. Piss off. Create curiosity.
Do whatever it takes to engage the reader.
31. Stuck with Flow? Think About a Press Release Style
I’ve received and written press releases for businesses and clients for over two decades.
I use a simple format borrowed from the best-selling author and former COO at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Cameron Harold.
I rely on this format when I’m stuck creating a blog lacks flow or begs for restructuring:
Catchy lead paragraph.
Expose a problem.
Show how your product/service can solve that problem.
Provide hard data or facts.
Quote someone high within the company (CEO, CMO, Founder).
Quote a Customer or Influencer.
Provide a Call-to-Action.
Try it. The simple format works.
32. Establish Rhythm with Long & Short Sentences
When writing, mix long and short sentences to establish a rhythm.
Think of mixing the short and snappy active style of Hemingway with the long and sometimes passive style of Faulkner.
Blogs need rhythm. This shows that the author cares about not just pumping out content but also feeding the entertainment side of reading.
33. Let Punctuation Also Control Pace
Besides long and short sentences, punctuation also controls pace. And rather quickly.
Think about it; there are loads of ways to speed up or slow down a sentence. One way, without a doubt, is experimenting with various punctuation.
34. Short Paragraphs
Although a mix of long and short sentences can help with the rhythm, when blogging short paragraphs will always trump long ones.
This provides more “air” between the paragraphs and doesn’t put a strain on the reader’s eyes.
This “air” makes things easier to digest. And that’s how you can truly implant your ideas into the reader’s mind.
35. Use Simple Language
Unless you’re writing for a specific audience that uses highly technical jargon, keep it out of your blogging efforts.
For example, with Search Engine Journal’s audience, we can get heavy into SEO talk. But on my business’s blog, we are targeting those who basically know zilch about SEO or content strategies, so the jargon is minimum.
Same for some of my guest postings on Forbes or other non-endemic publications. I write for those who know nada about what we do as professionals.
Use layman terms, if you may.
36. Active Verbs
Harry punched Sally. The man walked the dog. The blogger wrote the blog.
Verbs should show action. Keep a majority of them active.
Use passive verbs for rhythm and to alter flow for rhythm.
37. Use Proper Grammar
Read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.
Use Grammarly – the paid version is worth its editing weight in gold.
38. Watch Your ‘-ings’
Use them effectively. They weaken verbs and actions. But sometimes they are needed for slowing the flow or making a point.
39. Kill the Adjectives & Adverbs
Only use adjectives and adverbs when necessary. They add fluff and slow action.
40. Use Dialogue to Show Action
If you have a direct quote from someone or a publication/book, use dialogue to show action. The gnarlier the quote, the more it’ll move the reader excitedly through the story.
Bret Easton Ellis masters this. Read “Lunar Park” and you’ll understand. And quickly.
41. Consistent Voice
Every author has his or her unique voice. And if they don’t, with patience, discipline and a steady flow of daily writing, that voice will arrive.
Make sure that voice is the same across every blog.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve ghostwritten hundreds of articles for CEOs and entrepreneurs and developed a unique voice for each one.
Since departing ways with some, a few have used a few different ghostwriters, which is evident in the lack of consistent voice.
Work hard to develop your voice. And work harder to keep that voice consistent across every blog.
42. Consistent Themes
Themes reinforce the storytelling behind the blog. They provide entertainment for readers, allowing them to look forward to something more – even if on a subconscious level.
I love inserting themes within my work – even if subtle (protest something! Is part of this piece).
I also had fun with sexual desire and motorcycles while writing about a Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro I tested in Tuscany last year. Those references were not subtle.
43. Consistent Style
If you write mostly short and choppy sentences, continue that style.
If you write mostly long and chunky, continue that style.
You get the point.
44. Consistent Person & Tense
Keep the proper person (first, second or third) throughout the blog. And please remain coherent with your tense.
45. Journalism 5Ws, 1H
When writing a blog think like a journalist and always ask the five Ws and One H:
Make sure to answer each of these in every blog. Your readers will thank you for filling in all the gaps.
46. Inverted Pyramid Style
This is another tool from the world of journalism. When you write, layer the blog like an inverted pyramid with the most important information first, and all supporting details below. Not all blogs need this, but the majority should.
Basically, start with a catchy intro and immediately provide the reader what the article is about. And when used with proper keywords, you’ll be able to snatch up some featured snippets much easier.
47. Be Remarkable
Read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.
The text can be read in under two hours and will teach you everything about being remarkable.
Stand out. Be original. Don’t blog like your competitors.
48. Initial Edit: Cut Anything Useless
During your first edit, cut out anything that is useless. Adjectives, adverbs, crappy passages or stuff that appears out of place.
For my Search Engine Journal posts, I usually cut upwards of 1,000 words. If it isn’t needed, cut it.
Protest anything useless!
49. Second Edit: Read Passages Backwards
This is for grammar. Read the entire piece backward, starting from the last paragraph to the top.
You’ll quickly find errors because your mind won’t be in flow or organizational mode.
50. Speak Out Loud – Edit & Rewrite
The most important part of writing strong blog content is editing. Here you start from top to bottom and strengthen anything that feels or sounds weak.
When you read out loud, awkward passages will jump out. This is when you rearrange things and read for flow.
Also, a peer review or another editor is a must here. And if your submitting to other publications remember that you’re only as strong as your editor.
51. Walk Away & Edit Again
The final edit. Walk away from it all, and your subconscious will go to work. Complete a final edit on the next day. Remember here though that you can’t chase absolute perfection.
Perfectionism is just another form of procrastination. Get your blog out and let the readers decide its merit. And if they find mistakes live up to them; we’re human and fallible. Everyone makes mistakes.
UX Blog Writing Tips
52. Know the Audience
Never start writing until you know the intended audience. Niche publications like Search Engine Journal make this easy.
But when blogging for businesses with multiple products or services, make sure you have the exact audience in mind for the purpose of each blog.
53. Answer Questions
Once you know who your audience is, find out what questions they are asking. Then answer those questions. One of my favorite text on this is They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan. Read it.
Learn to listen to your audience’s questions. Then answer them through consistent and frequent blogging. Check social media, Quora, Reddit or simply ask your readers.
And don’t forget the “People also ask” at the bottom of Google search results. Let the algorithms do the work for you.
54. Think 80/20
Blog with an 80/20 mindset. Find the 20 percent of blogs that deliver 80 percent of outcome (typically the call to action or brand building). Don’t waste time and quickly pivot if the roles reverse.
Sometimes the simplest blogs that take 20-percent effort provide 80-percent of the outcome wanted – such as a direct sale or newsletter signup.
55. Be a Storyteller
Always tell a story. Humans thrive on storytelling – we have for millions of years. Make sure each and every blog has a story and also supports your brand’s overall story.
56. Appeal to All Five Senses
Don’t just write for visual appeal. Write to appeal to all senses. Show what wine or success tastes like; show how loud a noise is; show how something feels; show how terrible something smells.
57. Focus on One CTA
You may have multiple CTAs for your blog’s purpose, but only include one type in each blog. If you have a newsletter signup, don’t also offer a 50-percent discount. And vice versa.
58. Attribute True Leaders within the Industry
If you’re blogging about Ducati, quote the CEO or one of the top designers. Doing a piece on Frederick Chopin? Quote his early biographer Frederick Niecks.
59. Consistent Posting
Post the same time on the same day. Loyal fans and search engines love this.
60. Appeal with Images
This goes without saying. And if you can create original images or photos, do so; it’ll enhance your blog tremendously.
61. Appeal with Videos
This also goes without saying. Remember, though, videos are expensive. Spend your money wisely (follow the 80/20 rule!).
62. Appeal with Infographics
Use them wherever possible – especially if you’re providing tips or instructions on something. Hubspot said people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations. That’s serious engagement for adding an infographic. These also help with viral appeal in articles.
63. Appeal with Stand-Out Quotes
WordPress makes this easy. If the CMS doesn’t have this function, place a stand-out quote – one that builds on the strength of the article from a reputable source – place the quote alone in bold to make it stand out.
64. A/B Test Titles
Test a few different headlines. Sometimes just a variation on word placement can increase the openings. SEJ does this well.
65. Allow Comments
I’m a fan of Facebook comments. It’s more authentic because there are no aliases. Regardless, allowing comments presents a sense of community.
66. Engage with Comments Daily
Don’t forget to answer the comments on your blog weekly. Again – this will strengthen the community.
Amplify Blogs for Natural Link Building
67. Own Domain
First, make sure you own the content. Remember, if you create content on Medium or LinkedIn you don’t own it.
Make sure you own it. Not on wordpress.com (mysite.wordpress.com), but mysite.com found at WordPress.org. WordPress websites are cheap. It’s worth it.
Make sure the blogs are exposed in the business – or personal – newsletter.
Many bloggers miss out on mass appeal because they don’t exploit their blogs enough through something as simple as a newsletter.
An owned newsletter list is an interested audience; continually feed them so you stay, as John Hall would say, “Top of Mind.”
69. Guest Blogging
Guest blogging has many underlying benefits to your blog platform.
Most publications won’t allow you to simply discuss or link to an exact personal blog, but a link to your blog or website’s homepage in your bio is typical. Only guest post for valuable blogs.
Time is limited (remember that 80/20 mindset!).
Don’t just share the blog link; write a little message or pull a strong quote from the blog.
For my agency’s clients, I recommend using the meta description since the work was already completed.
Add proper hashtags, and tag any professional or business mentioned in the blog.
This goes without saying. Create something snappy that drives curiosity in those 280 characters.
And just like Facebook, make sure you use proper hashtags and tag any respective professionals or companies mentioned within your blogs – this will help with shares.
Though Instagram is photo-centric, you can still get some traction for your blog by building your branding via Insta.
The quickest way for bloggers is to post a pic from the blog, and link to it from your bio page. And as always, tag anyone mentioned, and also use proper hashtags.
LinkedIn is a great platform to share blogs – just like you would on Facebook, make sure to tag those involved and use proper hashtags. You can also write original content for your LinkedIn pages.
I’d rather own the content on my own blog, so I stray from this. But I do curate many blogs on LinkedIn channels. Just write a unique summary, provide a strong quote from the article, and then add the respective link.
For serious SEOs, simply copy/pasting a blog on Medium is a no-no. There are some ways, such as making sure your blog’s URL is published before sharing the same blog on Medium.
But if you’re into brand-building over SEO (think of personal blogs over a business blog), sharing can help achieve more eyes, and thus more shares.
Or create original content for Medium and link back to one of your blogs as a reference.
Find a subreddit based around your industry or subject, and engage with the community.
Don’t just force links to your blogs – wait to build some respect from the other readers, then start sharing your work.
Same deal with Reddit. Become respected, then share your valuable blog work.
77. PR Efforts
Find reputable publications and writers. Reach out to them in an authentic manner to offer any assistance they need for resources.
Do your research and don’t spam. Know the names and direct emails, and if you have created a relationship with an acquaintance of that person, let them know.
No – not the bicycles. HARO stands for “Help A Reporter Out”.
I’ve used this for the past decade, first as a publication representative asking others for help with an article, then as a source for other reporters needing valuable information.
79. Ask for Links in other Articles
Find an article that can benefit from your tip? Pitch the publication, writer, editor or web developer.
Keep it short and simple, and point them to the link you want to use. Let them decide.
Don’t follow up and be annoying. Be authentic.
80. Ask Friends/Family/Employees to Share Via Social
Sometimes the simplest engagement methods go by the proverbial wayside. Ask your friends, family, business associates and employees to share your blogs.
Productivity & Energy Blog Writing Tips
81. Write Daily and Consistently
The prolific writer Malcolm Gladwell explains his 10,000-Hour Rule in Outliers that argues becoming truly proficient takes 10,000 hours of doing something – which equates to about 20 hours a week for 10 years.
Writing every day for a consistent amount of time will naturally allow you to become a more proficient blogger.
82. Attempt to Master
When I teach writing, I tell everyone to continually attempt to master writing. I believe mastery in blog writing – or any type of writing – is impossible.
And if you get close, that means you’re becoming complacent and need to push yourself more. Complacency is the ultimate killer for any type of creative work – especially writing.
83. Don’t Wait for Inspiration
This is just another form of procrastination. Get blogging on a schedule during your most creative moments with your most creative spend that I wrote about here.
Yes – the work is hard. But the tougher the work, the better the final product.
84. Write Out of Comfort Zone
The more you challenge yourself, the more your brain will grow.
I take on unique ghostwriting assignments constantly, and a few times a month I’ll kick in on the blogging efforts for some of my agency’s clients that sometimes I know zero about and need to do loads of research.
Others do this by writing fiction. Take warning – if you’re taking on something to challenge your brain with your client or someone else’s client work, make sure to have a great editor on hand.
85. Kill Notifications
While blog writing, turn off all notifications on your phone and computer. I keep my Apple Mail Client shut down because I don’t like seeing the number of emails there.
This keeps you, as Chris Bailey would say, “hyperfocused,” and you’ll produce much more quality work in less time.
86. Enforce Downtime
As part of my productivity training (my agent is shopping my initial book about that very subject now!), I have a strict regime of mandatory downtime. This means truly getting away from anything work-related, from daily periods to a weekly night period to a full day.
This action keeps the mind fresh, particularly for blog writers. Find your threshold of creativity daily, and get away from it all when words become hard to write or sloppy.
I typically hike, ride a motorcycle, or read a fiction book – these all work for me because it keeps me off the screen. Sometimes these breaks are 15 minutes, other times two hours; it all depends on what I’m writing.
What also works for me to keep the mind fresh for writing all week is getting away from it all every Wednesday evening – typically from 5 p.m. until I complete my “Miracle Morning” (thanks Hal Elrod!) in the a.m.
I don’t open emails or think about writing. And one day on the weekend for an entire day I do the same.
87. Notebook or App for Ideas
Always have the means to write down ideas for blog subjects or anything else you need to remember for your blog.
I personally keep a Moleskin with me at all times (the cheap 3-pack ones). I have thousands of notes in them, from blog titles to blog strategies to complete hand-written outlines of blogs – including a rough outline of this very blog.
Others use apps as I do when I don’t have tablets on hand. Ideas arrive at weird times, especially during downtime.
How many awesome ideas did you get when in the shower, working out, or walking the dog? Have the means to write those ideas down.
88. Find Most Creative Periods
Everyone’s most creative periods throughout the day arrive at drastically different times. This can be attributed to our circadian rhythm and overall lifestyle, but I won’t get too scientific here.
This is one reason I’m against 9-5 working hours. Some people don’t kick into full creative modes when serious work happens at most places, which is typically after 10 or noon.
And it seems that many of the best bloggers I know work mid-afternoons or evenings.
Find what works for you, and do your most creative blogging within that period… at the same time every day.
89. Choose Music for Writing
I write with music about 90% of the time. And the genres or bands vary depending on what I’m writing.
If I’m outlining a Forbes blog, it may be Chopin.
If I’m writing a blog for my business, it’s typically John Coltrane or Wes Montgomery.
Motorcycle articles – Black Sabbath or Dimmu Borgir.
As I’m writing this very sentence Hand of Doom is on by Black Sabbath. The outline was created with Tool in the background, and the first draft Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland.
Edits were completed with Lycia and Howard Shore’s Two Concerti masterpiece.
90. Continued Education
Read books on writing. Take seminars. Take online SEO classes.
Do whatever it takes and NEVER stop learning.
Again, as I stated in point 82 above, complacency is the ultimate killer of creativity. It also will crush your mind from growing.
Protest any form of becoming stale in new learning!
91. You are What You Read
Reading not only skills you about a subject matter, but also for future writing.
When you read you always take a bit of that author with you into your next writing, whether a minute sentence structure or poetic voice.
You are what you read – so choose your books wisely.
Bonus point: if you truly love a piece of writing or an author, read passages aloud and notice the rhythm or use of language.
With enough time that writer’s style will reflect on your writing.
92. Rewrite Your Favorite Chapters
Growing up with a focus on music, writing and the sub-status quo lifestyle, I obviously read some writers that went against the status quo such as Jack Kerouac and Brett East Ellis. But one that truly helped with my writing career was Hunter S. Thompson.
Not so much for his “Gonzo” lifestyle (though it was fun in my 20s), but his clean journalistic style. Anyone can read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in one sitting.
And it’s not so much the non-stop funny content, but rather the short paragraphs and genius use of dialogue to show action (revisit point 40 above).
HST taught me more, though. When he was learning to write he emulated F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway (who didn’t!), and just as Tony Robbins tells people to emulate the best to shortcut their performance, so did Hunter with his word training.
He rewrote The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms word-for-word to strengthen his skill.
And it worked; I argue he’d be just as popular as a writer without the Gonzo lifestyle. And it was all due to his style – a style he developed by literally emulating other greats by typing out their exact words.
93. Read William Zinsser’s ‘On Writing Well’
This is by far the best book on writing. The most important takeaways are the need for constant edits and decluttering your writing from all nonsense and jargon.
In a world where online readers have the smallest attention spans ever, Zinsser’s text is needed more than ever.
Be warned (or smile if you’re getting away from it all!) – the word SEO is not mentioned anywhere.
94. Read ‘On Writing Well’ Again
Do it yearly. Make notes. Make new notes. Leave it in the bathroom. Read it at least once a year. You’re blogging audience will thank you.
95. Embrace All Elements of the Industry
Whatever industry you blog about, learn and participate as much as possible within everything involved in that industry.
If you write about motorcycles, ride every type. Learn the history of each brand. Understand the main bloggers. Get into the business and creative side of it.
The more you embrace your industry, the better your blogging efforts.
96. Ask for Criticism
Find someone you trust – friend, wife, associate, etc. – and ask them for honest criticism. Sometimes if people are too close they’ll outright lie.
Ask them to be honest, and ask for as much trusted criticism as possible. And learn from it.
97. Kill the Ego
Keep any type of ego out of your blogging efforts. A blog thick with ego kills the message. Yes, people do care if you sold the best-selling book on SEO or investing or whatever.
Mention it subtly to create credibility, but don’t highlight it. And never, ever repeat such ego-satisfying words.
Protest the ego-centric blogger!
This should go without saying in the 21st Century. The healthier the body, the healthier the mind – and vice versa.
Get as much exercise as possible – even walking 1000 steps a day over 500 can make a drastic difference, as is diet and calmness around booze (coming from a man who LOVES wine).
99. Standing Desk
Before a standing desk came into my life, I blamed my shoulder and backaches on the non-stop motorcycle riding on road-racing circuits, off-road tracks, and twisty roads from around the world.
But in 2016, wifey bought me one of those portable thingies for my laptop. Soon I found myself using it daily at the desk, and I felt healthier due to a better posture that erased many aches.
The portable was a PITA, so I invested in a stand-up desk about a year ago.
Best. Investment. Ever.
My “hyperfocus” periods have grown tremendously. Plus, Hemingway wrote while standing. If it’s good enough for Papa, it’s obviously good enough for us bloggers.
Shortly after I discovered the standing desk, I discovered grounding.
First I was experimenting with it to battle jet lag after landing in Europe to test motorcycles. The first thing I’d do is get to the hotel and walk around barefoot.
The results were unbelievable for energy, so I tried a grounding mat under my desk. The energy levels grew, as did my focus.
I have worked barefoot on a grounding mat since. Everyday. All working hours.
Since launching ContentMender in early 2017, I’ve obsessed over discovery any hack that helped me produce more energy and focus.
Besides my agency, I also was running the day-to-day operations of a successful motorcycle website (writing and SEO) and also outlining and creating the proposal for my first book, “365 to Vision: Time Management Inverted”, and dealing with the norms of everyday life, including a toddler.
Biohacking became essential, and part of my ongoing studies.
The above grounding mat and standing desk are just a few elements of my biohacking, along with about 45 supplements daily, ice-cold showers, Bulletproof Coffee, infrared saunas, and Circadian Optics lighting, among other things.
Biohacking has helped me produce a consistent flow of content across various industries. And some days I write for 10-12 hours without a headache or anger as my mind remains completely focused.
I blame this partially on biohacking, which can help strengthen the energy for any type of blogger.
Featured Image of author Ron Lieback shot by Kevin Wing at Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 Circuit
I was recently helping one of my team members diagnose a new prospective customer site to find some low hanging fruit to share with them.
When I checked their home page with our Chrome extension, I found a misplaced canonical tag. We added this type of detection a long time ago when I first encountered the issue.
What is a misplaced SEO tag, you might ask?
Most SEO tags like the title, meta description, canonical, etc. belong in the HTML HEAD. If they get placed in the HTML BODY, Google and other search engines will ignore them.
If you go to the Elements tab, you will find the SEO tags inside the <BODY> tag. But, these tags are supposed to be in the <HEAD>!
Why does something like this happen?
If we check the page using VIEW SOURCE, the canonical tag is placed correctly inside the HTML HEAD (line 56, while the <BODY> is in line 139.).
What is happening here?!
Is this an issue with Google Chrome?
The canonical is also placed in the BODY in Firefox.
We have the same issue with Internet Explorer.
Edge is no exception.
We have the same problem with other browsers.
HTML parsing vs. syntax highlighting
Why is the canonical placed correctly when we check VIEW SOURCE, but not when we check it in the Elements tab?
In order to understand this, I need to introduce a couple of developer concepts: lexical analysis and syntax analysis.
When we load a source page using VIEW SOURCE, the browser automatically color codes programming tokens (HTML tags, HTML comments, etc).
In order to do this, the browser performs basic lexical analysis to break the source page into HTML tokens.
This task is typically performed by a lexer. It is a simple, and low-level task.
All programming language compilers and interpreters use a lexer that can break source text into language tokens.
When we load the source page with the Elements tab, the browser not only does syntax highlighting, but it also builds a DOM tree.
In order to build a DOM tree, it is not enough to know HTML tags and comments from regular text, you also need to know when a tag opens and closes, and their place in the tree hierarchy.
This syntactic analysis requires a parser.
An English spellchecker needs to perform a similar, two-phased analysis of the written text. First, it needs to translate text into nouns, pronouns, adverbs, etc. Then, it needs to apply grammar rules to make sure the part of speech tags are in the right order.
But why are the SEO tags placed in the HTML body?
Parsing HTML from Python
I wrote a Python script to fetch and parse some example pages with errors, find the canonical anywhere in the HTML, and print the DOM path where it was found.
After parsing the same page that shows misplaced SEO tags in the HTML Body, I find them correctly placed in the HTML head.
What are we missing?
Invalid tags in the HTML head
Some HTML tags are only valid in the HTML BODY. For example, <DIV> and <SPAN> tags are invalid in the HTML head.
When I looked closely at the HTML HEAD in our example, I found a script with a hardcoded <SPAN>. This means, the script was meant to be placed in the <BODY>, but the user incorrectly placed it in the head.
Maybe the instructions were not clear, the vendor omitted this information or the user didn’t know how to do this in WordPress.
I tested by moving the script to the BODY but still faced the misplaced canonical issue.
After a bit of trial and error, I found another script that when I moved it to the BODY, the issue disappeared.
While the second script didn’t have any hardcoded invalid tags, it was likely writing one or more to the DOM.
In other words, it was doing it dynamically.
But, why would inserting invalid tags, cause the browser to push the rest of the HTML in the head to the body?
Web browser error tolerance
I created a few example HTML files with the problems I discussed and loaded them in Chrome to show you what happens.
In the first example, I commented out the opening BODY tag. This removes it.
Here you see that if a script writes an invalid tag in the HTML head, it will cause the browser to close it early as before. We have exactly the same problem!
We didn’t see the problem with our Python parser because lxml (the Python parsing library) doesn’t try to fix HTML errors.
Why do browsers do this?
Browsers need to render pages that our Python script doesn’t need to do. If they try to render before correcting mistakes, the pages would look completely broken.
The web is full of pages that would completely break if web browsers didn’t accommodate for errors.
This article from HTML5Rocks provides a fascinating look inside web browsers and helps explain the behavior we see in our examples.
“The HTML5 specification does define some of these requirements. (WebKit summarizes this nicely in the comment at the beginning of the HTML parser class.)
Unfortunately, we have to handle many HTML documents that are not well-formed, so the parser has to be tolerant about errors.
We have to take care of at least the following error conditions:
The element being added is explicitly forbidden inside some outer tag. In this case, we should close all tags up to the one which forbids the element, and add it afterward.
Please read the full article or at least make sure to read at least the section on “Browser’s Error Tolerance” to get a better context.
How to fix this
Fortunately, fixing this problem is actually very simple. We have two alternatives. A lazy one and a proper one.
The proper fix is to track down scripts that insert invalid HTML tags in the head and move them to the HTML body.
The lazy and quickest fix is to move all SEO tags (and other important tags) before any third party scripts. Preferably, right after the opening <HEAD> tag.
You can see how I do it here.
We still have the same invalid tag and script in the HTML head and the SEO tags are also in the head.
Is this a common problem?
I’ve been seeing this issue happening for many years now, and Patrick Stox has also reported seeing the same problem happening often to enterprise sites.
One of the biggest misconceptions about technical SEO is that you do it once and you are done. That would be the case if the sites didn’t change, users/developers didn’t make mistakes and/or Googlebot behavior didn’t change either.
At the moment that is hardly the case.
I’ve been advocating technical SEOs learn developer skills and I hope this case study illustrates the growing importance of this.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Hamlet Batista is CEO and founder of RankSense, an agile SEO platform for online retailers and manufacturers. He holds U.S. patents on innovative SEO technologies, started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer back in 2002, and believes great SEO results should not take 6 months.
Think about the last time you uploaded an image to your website. Chances are you downloaded it from a stock photography site, uploaded it to the backend of your site, and then inserted it to the page.
This makes a shining example of image optimization, right? Not quite.
You’ve added a giant bowling ball weight to your site that’s slowing down the page speed. And, search engines can’t read your images without alt text.
Let’s change that.
Over 20% of all U.S. web searches happen on Google Images, according to 2018 data from Jumpshot.
SEO amateurs and pros alike know that optimizing images for your website is notoriously worth the time spent.
Dan Morgan at WebSpection got one of his photos to rank #1 in Google Images for “best person in Cardiff” in less than four days by optimizing his image.
And, Robbie Richards generated 150,732 visits by adding image alt tags, compressing images, and a few other SEO tricks.
Without proper image optimization, you’re wasting a valuable SEO asset.
It’s like the search engines are giving away Oreos and milk for free. But, you only take the Oreo. When in reality, the Oreo is way better dunked in milk.
Image optimization creates many advantages such as better user experience, faster page load times, and additional ranking opportunities. And, it’s becoming an increasingly more important role.
As Matt Southern pointed out, Gary Illyes’ statement on image search in a recent Reddit chat:
“We simply know that media search is way too ignored for what it’s capable doing for publishers so we’re throwing more engineers at it as well as more outreach.”
But which factors are most important to ensure your images are findable and don’t slow down your site?
Here are 11 important image optimization tips you need to know.
1. Choose the Right Format
Decoding all the various image format can feel like your first time ordering at Taco Bell. But, before you can start adding images to your site, you want to make sure you’ve chosen the best file type.
While there are many image formats to choose from, the PNG and JPEG are the most common for the web.
PNG: Produces better quality images, but comes with a larger file size.
JPEG: You may lose image quality, but you can adjust the quality level to find a good balance.
For me, PNG is the unsung hero of image formatting. Typically, I only use JPEGs for bigger, more visual images taken by a true photographer. But, for my daily use, PNG is the way to go.
2. Compress Your Images
Yep, hell hath no fury like a bloated web page after uploading an image that’s not compressed.
Search engines will look at your web page like you might look at a big vat of Crisco: You can’t seriously be considering putting that on you your website, right?
According to HTTP Archive, images make up on average 21% of a total webpage’s weight.
That’s why I highly recommend compressing your images before uploading to your site. You can do this in Photoshop or you can use a tool like TinyPNG. TingPNG also has a WordPress plugin you can use too.
However, I prefer WP Smush as my WordPress plugin. It reduces the image file size without removing the quality. Whatever plugin you use, make sure to find one that compresses the images externally on their servers. It reduces the load on your own site.
Increasingly.com improved website speed by 33% / 2 seconds by compressing images.
I mean, there’s just something sexy about faster page speed when after you compress your images.
If you’re unsure how your images are affecting your page speed, I recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
3. Create Unique Images
You want your photos to pop on your site. If you fill your website with stock imagery, you’ll look unoriginal – like thousands of other sites that don’t stand out.
Too many websites are cluttered with the same generic stock photos.
Think about a corporate website, a consulting firm, a business that prides itself on customer service. All these websites use virtually the same looking stock image of a businessman smiling.
I’m sure you’ve seen one that looks like this:
While you may have your stock images perfectly optimized, it won’t have the same impact or potential SEO benefits as an original, high-quality image.
The more original pictures you have, the better experience for the user and the better your odds are of ranking on relevant searches.
4. Beware of Copyright
Regardless of the image files you choose to use, make sure there’s no copyright conflict.
The Postal Service is paying $3.5 million in an image copyright lawsuit. And, Sketchers got sued for $2.5 million.
If Getty, Shutterstock, DepositFiles, or some other stock photo provider owns an image you use, and you don’t have a license to use it, then you’re risking an expensive lawsuit.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you could be issued a notice if you have violated any copyright issues. If the owner of a piece of content sees their content on your website, they can issue a DMCA Takedown which you must comply with.
Google Images allows you to filter results based on those available for reuse. And, Mindy Weinstein shares 41 different websites to find free images.
5. Customize Image File Names
When it comes to SEO, creating descriptive, keyword-rich file names is absolutely crucial.
Not customizing your image file name is like getting a burrito with nothing in it. It just plain sucks.
Image file names alert Google and other search engine crawlers as to the subject matter of the image.
Typically, file names will look like “IMG_722019” or something similar. That’s like ordering from a menu in a different language. It doesn’t help Google.
Change the file name from the default to help the search engines understand your image and improve your SEO value.
This involves a bit of work, depending on how extensive your media library is, but changing the default image name is always a good idea. Let’s take this image of chocolate for example:
I could name it simply “chocolate” but if you sell chocolate on your website, potentially every image can be named “chocolate-1,” “chocolate-2,” and so on.
I named this image “dark-chocolate-coffee” to let users and search engines understand the image.
6. Write SEO-Friendly Alt Text
Alt tags are a text alternative to images when a browser can’t properly render them. Similar to the title, the alt attribute is used to describe the contents of an image file.
When the image won’t load, you’ll get an image box with the alt tag present in the top left corner. Make sure they fit with the image and make the picture relevant.
Paying attention to alt tags is also beneficial to the overall on-page SEO strategy. You want to make sure that all other optimization areas are in place, but if the image fails to load for any reason, users will see what the image is supposed to be.
Plus, adding appropriate alt tags to the images on your website can help your website achieve better rankings in the search engines by associating keywords with images. Even Google has remarked on the value of alt text in images.
It provides Google with useful information about the subject matter of the image. We use this information to help determine the best image to return for a user’s query.
Alt text is required under the American Disabilities Act for individuals who are unable to view images themselves. A descriptive alt text can alert users exactly what is in the photo. For example, say you have a picture of chocolate on your website.
The alt text could read:
<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”chocolate”/>
However, a better alternative text that describes the image would read:
Alt text is viewable in the cached text version of the page, aiding in its benefit to both users and the search engines. For further SEO value, the alt text can act as the anchor text of an internal link when the image links to a different page on the site.
7. Think About the Image File Structure
In 2018, Google updated its Image Guidelines. One of the major updates they revealed was that they use the file path and file name to rank images.
Repeat: The file path and file name is an actual ranking factor.
For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand with multiple products, instead of placing all your product images into a generic /media/ folder, I would recommend structuring your subfolders to more category related topics like /shorts/ or /denim/.
8. Make Your Page Title & Description
Google also revealed that it uses your page title and description as part of its image search algorithm.
The Google support page states:
“Google Images automatically generates a title and snippet to best explain each result and how it relates to the user query… We use a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the title, and meta tags.”
All of your basic on-page SEO factors like meta data, header tags, copy on the page, structured data, etc. affects the way Google ranks your images.
It’s like putting all your toppings on your burrito. It tastes way better with guac. So, make sure to add the guac for improving image rankings.
9. Define Your Dimensions
If you’re using AMP or PWAs, you are required to define your image dimensions in the source code.
However, if you’re not using either, it’s still a best practice to define the width and height. It provides a better user experience.
Plus, it allows the browsers to size the image before the CSS is loaded. This stops the page from jumping when it loads.
10. Make Your Images Mobile-Friendly
Oh, mobile SEO. At its worst, it can give you a high bounce rate and low conversions. But, at its best, it can give you more ranking power and better user engagement.
Problem is, how do you optimize your images for the mobile-first index?
You create responsive images. This means the image will scale with the size of the site whether the user is using desktop or mobile. It adjusts to the size of the device.
11. Add Images to Your Sitemap
Whether you’re adding your images to your sitemap or creating a new sitemap for images, you want images somewhere in your sitemaps.
Having your images in a sitemap greatly increases the chances of search engines crawling and indexing your images. Thus, results in more site traffic.
If you’re using WordPress, Yoast offers a sitemap solution in their plugin.
Image Optimization Key Takeaways
So, before you begin uploading your image to your site, make sure to follow the image optimization rituals from above.
The most important thing is to make sure the image and alternative text are relevant to the page. Other key takeaways:
Choose the right file format. PNGs are my favorite for screenshots.
Reduce file size for faster page load speed.
Make sure your on-page SEO elements (meta data, structured data, etc.) pair with your image.
For crawlability, create an image sitemap or make sure your images are featured in your sitemap.
Optimizing images are no joke. With advancements in voice search technology, media is a growing importance and your entire site will benefit from taking the steps above.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita All screenshots taken by author