There are several link attributes used for SEO, including the link title attribute.
In fact, as of late there has been a transformation in link attributes that you can use (although, this is beyond the scope of this article).
With the popularity of platforms like WordPress, it is easy to make mistakes, even when writing proper HTML code.
These silly mistakes can negatively impact things when done enough and they become habits.
This becomes even truer because of WordPress’ functionality where they automatically use the duplicate of the post title when creating the link title attribute.
If you aren’t very experienced in SEO, you may think that this is OK.
Quite the contrary!
You should not be using duplicates of your page titles within the link title attribute.
What Are the Best Practices for Using a Link Title Attribute?
You should use a link title when you are providing more information about the link.
Don’t use a link title to provide the information over again.
This is a disastrous usability fail that will only result in annoying your users.
Have you ever run into an incident where the exact link title showed up when you hovered over it?
You didn’t need to know something that’s visible on the page, right?
Some of your users may think that way as well.
The best question you can ask yourself when optimizing is: will this add information to my link or will it just annoy my users with duplication?
Focus on Optimizing for Users, Rather Than Search Engines
Optimize for your users, rather than search engines.
Yes, this is nothing new. But it is effective.
- Overstuff the link title attribute with keywords.
- Duplicate the topic title.
- Write the link title so that something unique pops up for users.
- Write the link title with users in mind.
The link anchor text is supposed to be the name of the link itself.
The link title attribute is supposed to provide more information about where the link will send the user who clicks on that link.
Does Using the Title Attribute Impact Search Rankings?
Per this thread on Webmasterworld.com, no – there is no effect:
The Link Title Attribute – Does It Help Accessibility?
There is some disagreement among SEO pros that accessibility should not be included in SEO best practices.
But others think it should.
I’m of the opinion that accessibility, while not a direct ranking factor, is one of those indirect ranking factors that are indisputable in terms of their value.
Yes, you have to learn more. But this will help improve your client’s site and their bottom line by reducing accessibility lawsuits.
These kinds of lawsuits have recently been on the rise, with disabled persons suing websites for not including basic accessibility items like alternative text.
Alternative text, or alt text for short, is an image attribute that gives text to screen readers for the blind.
In principle, you would think the link title attribute works in a similar way.
However, this is not the case.
The W3C states the following:
“Current user agents and assistive technology provide no feedback to the user when links have title attribute content available.
Some graphical user agents will display a tool tip when the mouse hovers above an anchor element containing a title attribute. However, current user agents do not provide access to title attribute content via the keyboard.
The tool tip in some common user agents disappears after a short period of time (approximately 5 seconds). This can cause difficulty accessing title attribute content for those users who can use a mouse but have fine motor skill impairment, and may result in difficulties for users who need more time to read the tool tip.
Current graphical user agents do not provide mechanisms to control the presentation of title attribute content. The user cannot resize the tool tip text or control the foreground and background colors. The placement and location of the tool tip cannot be controlled by users, causing some screen magnifier users to be unable to access meaningful portions of the title attribute content because the tool tip cannot be fully displayed within the viewport.
Some user agents allow access to supplementary information through the context menu. For example, the keystroke combination Shift+F10 followed by P will display the title attribute content, along with other supplementary information in Mozilla/Firefox.”
It’s not perfect, so it is almost impossible to provide a good way to implement accessibility in this scenario.
This is why it is important to take a more in-depth look at guidelines for these elements.
They don’t always work the way you think they should and, in some cases, changes to the elements can happen in a flash also.
Example of How to Use It
Here’s an example of how to use the link title attribute correctly:
<a href=”https://www.searchenginejournal.com/” title=”This is a link to the Search Engine Journal website”>SEJ</a>
What Do the Search Engines Say?
We can speculate all day long, but at the end of the day, the final word of the search engines on the link title attribute is this:
“The ‘title’ attribute is a bit different: it ‘offers advisory information about the element for which it is set.’ As the Googlebot does not see the images directly, we generally concentrate on the information provided in the ‘alt’ attribute. Feel free to supplement the ‘alt’ attribute with ‘title’ and other attributes if they provide value to your users!”
This is what Bing has to say:
“Think of the anchor text as your primary description of the linked page. But if you do inline linking within the paragraphs of your body text, you need to maintain the natural, logical flow of the language in the paragraph, which can limit your link text description. As such, you can use the title attribute to add additional keyword information about the linked page without adversely affecting the readability of the text for the end user.”
What Do Other SEO Professionals Say?
Based on the opinions of several people who have done SEO for years, the link title attribute carries no weight on search engines.
There is also some usability concern when it comes to the link title attribute.
For most browsers, it will show up when you move your cursor over the link.
Because of this, you don’t have to copy the anchor text within a title attribute. If the title attribute is unable to provide additional information, you should not use it.
“Do not add link titles to all links: if it is obvious from the link anchor and its surrounding context where the link will lead, then a link title will reduce usability by being one more thing users have to look at.”
The Rise in Accessibility Lawsuits: Should You Be Concerned?
On January 4, 2019, it was reported that Beyonce.com was sued over accessibility issues.
Target has also been sued over accessibility issues in the past.
Accessibility should always be a concern for SEO professionals, because you are supposed to be driving revenue and increasing ROI for your clients.
When an accessibility lawsuit happens, your client loses money, or ROI, from the lack of these efforts. In addition, they are usually not happy about your website.
Your efforts as an SEO should include making sure that link title attributes and links are visible and usable by your users, regardless of their abilities.
Focus on Your Users, Not the Search Engines
When writing link title attributes, be sure to write for users, and don’t create spammy text just for the search engines.
Because, it will be users who are – primarily – going to be using this title text.
At the end of the day, accessibility matters:
- Don’t make links hard to read.
- Don’t make link titles difficult to use, or understand.
Make things look great while focusing on the user experience in order to make sure that your users are happy and elated to be on your website.
Featured Image: Created by the author; from Shutterstock.com
Screenshot taken by author, November 2019
WordPress Announces Gutenberg 7.1 – It’s Big!
WordPress Gutenberg 7.1 has been updated with a large amount of improvements. While there is a small performance slowdown introduced in this version of Gutenberg, the scope of improvements may override those concerns.
New Welcome User Interface
An improved feature is in the welcome UI screen. This is a feature for new users to help introduce them to the Gutenberg block editing experience.
This release introduces Table Captions. This allows users to add captions to the bottom of tables. There is also a new UI toggle for selecting between editing and selection modes.
Editing mode allows you to edit inside the table and selection mode allows a user to select an element of the table.
This makes Gutenberg’s table functionality more useful and saves a user from having to download a plugin. However, users interested in creating tables with advanced features may be interested in using a plugin.
For example, a premium table plugin like League Table by DAEXT has numerous features that an advanced user may find useful and flexible.
Mobile Editing Improvements
The next two upgrades are in the user interface for editing.
Now there is a fixed-mobile toolbar for selecting editing elements like paragraphs, links and so on.
Here’s an example of the new mobile toolbar in action from the WordPress mobile toolbar GitHub page:
Another improvement is in the ability to select multiple blocks while editing in mobile:
WordPress also trimmed PHP 5.2 compatibility code from the RSS block. This makes it more important for WordPress users to make sure they are using the most up to date version of PHP, which is currently in the 7.x version.
Upgrading the version of of PHP you’re WordPress site is on is an easy way to speed up your site as well as to harden your site against hacking events.
Two Dozen Bug Fixes
The WordPress announcement noted there were two dozen bug fixes. Among them was fixing the CSS styles of the ColorPicker component.
Gutenberg Performance Benchmarks
Of interest is the performance benchmarks that seem to indicate that using the Gutenberg interface is becoming slower.
Loading time in seconds
- Gutenberg 7.1.0: 7.45s
- Gutenberg 7.0.0: 6.84s
- WordPress 5.3: 6.33s
The keypress event metric does show improvement.
Keypress Event (Typing)
- Gutenberg 7.1.0: 88.56ms
- Gutenberg 7.0.0: 94ms
- WordPress 5.3: 75.19ms
While the difference between version 7.0 and 7.1 is just under one second, it’s not an unreasonable expectation that performance would at least stay static if not improve.
Overall, it’s great to see so many exciting improvements, particularly with the new mobile toolbar.
Read the official WordPress announcement
8 Things You Must Do Next
Did you know that once you have basic SEO implemented on-site, it may not be enough?
How do you know that you are actually implementing everything that your competition is? And more?
How do you know that you’re really putting in all the stops beyond that?
There are several ways to do this.
One is competitor research.
You must research your competition to understand what and how they are implementing things – both on-site and off-site.
And, beyond that, there are also things you must do for your SEO strategy.
Here, I wanted to examine the different things you must do after the basics are complete.
I’m talking just basic optimization everyone (should) know:
- Keyword research.
- Entity research.
- Competitor and keyword gap analysis.
- On-page keyword optimization.
- Keyword targeting.
- Title tags.
- Meta description.
- Image optimization.
- Internal links.
- You have all relevant content pages written and optimized:
- Product / Service Pages.
- About page.
- Contact page.
- Resources page.
- Anything else that’s basic to your industry.
- Your code follows the proper semantic structure.
- Your code isn’t overly long and overshadows the content on the site.
After this, there are advanced things you can do to improve your WordPress SEO.
1. Track Your Conversions Using UTM Parameters
Nothing sucks worse than not having data.
Well, maybe having the wrong data.
If you want to make sure that you don’t have the wrong data, using UTM parameters in your links used solely for advertising is the way to go.
If you use any links on social media, or URLs elsewhere with an SEO or advertising campaign attached, you will want to use UTM parameters.
By default, Google Analytics does not record the sources of your traffic, so you are left with general assessments of your organic traffic, which can be dangerous when making assumptions and recommendations on SEO data.
You can change this by using Google’s Campain URL builder.
First, you enter the website URL.
Then, you can enter the campaign source (whether or not it’s Google, a Newsletter, etc.)
Next, you can enter the campaign medium.
Then, you enter the campaign name (such as seo_campaign_lawyers) or something that tells you which campaign you are using.
The next one you enter is your campaign term – you can enter the keywords that you’re tracking as part of that campaign.
The field “campaign content” is next, and this will help you differentiate ads that you are running.
For example, if it’s a billboard or other offline advertising campaign, you can use a shortened version of this URL on bit.ly to track this traffic.
You can get very granular with this – monitoring calls to action and other tags in content that convert best.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you can create within Google Analytics. This granular data can help you assess what performs best and this will help you make adjustments from there.
It’s also extraordinarily beneficial when it comes to keeping tabs on your audience.
I suggest checking out this guide to UTM best practices from Terminus App, and learning how to set up your own UTM parameters for conversions.
2. Fix Indexing & Crawling Issues with Duplicate Content
While this may seem like a basic issue, at its core, it’s really not all that basic.
When you have a thousand-page site that’s hammered with duplicate content issues, it can be a chore just to find all of them.
Even doubly so if you are not a more experienced SEO.
If you suspect that you are inundated with duplicate content issues, you should do two audits:
A content audit to find duplicate content on-site and off-site, and a technical audit to figure out how the content is causing you to suffer issues.
One advanced tip you may not know about. In Screaming Frog, did you know that hashes can easily be used to identify duplicate content?
They are basically a fingerprint for finding this duplicate content.
After you have crawled your site in Screaming Frog and extracted the site data, there will be a column called “Hash”.
This Hash column can easily be used to identify pages with duplicate content.
Essentially, duplicate hashes means duplicate content.
How do you find it? In Excel, for an advanced tactic, it’s rather easy.
- Bring up your exported crawl data from Screaming Frog in Excel.
- Scroll to the right to find the column labeled “hash”.
- Select the entire column.
- Click on Conditional Formatting:
- Then, click on highlight cells rules, then duplicate values:
- Then click on the dropdown under format cells that contain, then click on duplicate. Next, next to ‘values with’, click on ‘Light red fill with dark red text’. You can use any color combination you want here, but this is the combination chosen for this tutorial. Then, click on OK.
If you have any duplicate content, the hash column rows will turn to a light red fill with dark red text.
This will make it very easy to identify duplicate content.
On larger sites, you can prioritize your audit by sorting through the duplicate content rows, and assessing how bad the issue really is.
In addition, to prioritize and identify these issues, you can also sort the hash column and group URLs by the colored rows.
3. Noindex Categories, Tags & Archive Pages in WordPress
These types of pages can be a major issue for WordPress sites if they are not optimized properly.
If you just do a search on Google using the site: operator and your domain name, the pages indexed should give you a good idea of what’s happening there.
Compare this with the URLs that Screaming Frog has crawled during your audit. Also compare this with Google Search Console pages that it recognizes.
If any of these numbers are out of whack and don’t match the physical pages indexed on Google shown below, you have a major issue with duplicate content and indexation.
But, this could arise from any number of factors on a WordPress site.
However, the most common of these factors include the following:
- A search plugin that is errantly publishing a URL per each search performed using that plugin.
- Useless category, tag, and archive pages that are not set to noindex.
- Anything else that is automatically generated by a plugin.
Finding these can be easily done in Screaming Frog data also.
Using conditional formatting, you can highlight URLs that only contain category, tag, and archive elements within their URLs.
After using this conditional formatting, you can then sort said URLs by priority when you investigate them for duplicate content.
4. Optimize for Schema.org Structured Data
Not familiar with Schema markup? Read What is Schema Markup & Why It’s Important for SEO.
If you are not using Schema.org structured data to target SERP marketing endeavors, you are losing out.
While it doesn’t guarantee immediate position zero rankings, not targeting SERPs that have this primary SERP feature is a mistake.
If you are not doing Schema.org microdata optimization, you can lose out on competitive SERPs that have rich snippets (along with other types of snippets).
3 Ways to Optimize for Schema in WordPress
There are three different ways that you can optimize for Schema.org structured in WordPress.
- Use standard Schema.org structured data markup.
- Use Schema.org plugins.
- Use Google Tag Manager.
All of them work and all of them have their benefits and drawbacks, depending on what you want to do for your site.
When you use standard Schema.org microdata, you are optimizing for each specific page, product item on your site.
This can take a ton of time to do manually, and there’s really no “automatic” way around it.
You can try to create an automatic Schema optimization program yourself, but you have to be wary of information specific to your location, and make sure you don’t run afoul of the rules and get yourself in trouble with Google’s spammy structured data penalty.
It’s well worth it to write Schema manually, so you are well aware of everything your Schema markup is doing on your site.
If you have a site with many pages, it can be a daunting task to manually code Schema for all of those pages that you wish to target for SERP marketing.
If you use a plugin, your job can be much easier.
There are a few plugins, such as Schema Pro, that offers the ability to implement Schema across a wide range of data types, so regardless of the site you have, you can rest assured that your Schema is implemented properly.
There is one reason why I don’t like using Google Tag Manager to implement Schema structured data: and that reason comes down to bottlenecks.
If GTM stops working, you can lose your rankings and rich snippets for however long it’s down.
The less you implement when it comes to bottlenecks, the better off you will be.
Keep Schema.org structured data on-site, and the only issues you run into will be the issues that you create yourself.
5. Speed Optimizations
Speed became a ranking factor on desktop back in 2010. Speed became a ranking factor for mobile in 2018.
Maile Ohye has mentioned previously in her work at Google, that 2 seconds for page speed is a threshold.
This means, there is a minimum page speed Google would like to see in order to make sure that ecommerce sites are viable and able to serve user demand and satisfy their needs acceptably.
The faster the better.
“2 seconds is actually the threshold for e-commerce site acceptability. Meaning that, that’s what users like to shop with. At Google we aim for under a half-second.”
If you can get your site to load in under a half-second, you are going to be a cut above all of your competitors out there.
It’s a challenge, to be sure, to get WordPress to load in under a half-second, but it can be done if you are willing to put in the time and effort to do so.
There are several things you must do when it comes to your page speed optimizations on the more advanced side, once you have optimized your images (one of the most basic page speed optimization bottlenecks).
6. Implement a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
For larger sites, implementing a CDN should be a requirement.
Your CDN will help you reach more consumers in more locations faster, rather than serving from one location.
This can, in turn, decrease your page speed significantly.
The best CDNs for 2020, according to Techradar, include the following:
- Amazon Cloudfront
- Microsoft Azure CDN
7. Be Watchful of Your Permalinks Settings!
This is something that can be lost on some webmasters, who are not familiar with WordPress.
You should be extremely careful of these settings after your site goes live.
But, if you don’t keep an eye on your permalinks settings, you can cause significant rankings drops when all of your permalinks all of a sudden start showing 404 errors.
A scenario such as this is increasingly likely when you have a larger team who is not well-managed, and certain tasks get away from you as a result.
You know what can happen?
One team member can wreak havoc by changing these settings, and causing a rankings drop so severe you may think you have a penalty.
But, this is one of the first things you should check if you have a WordPress site and you think you have a penalty.
Unfortunately, the default WordPress URL structure options presented under permalinks does not create a great URL structure for Google.
Google does make one thing clear in their guidelines, however, that your URL structure should be user-friendly and organized.
“Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website not only helps you keep your site better organized, it can create easier, “friendlier” URLs for those that want to link to your content. Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words.”
Categories and postname is a good structure to follow to ensure that your URLs are Google-friendly and optimized for your niche and audience in this scenario.
But, WordPress doesn’t provide this option.
How do you do this, then?
In your WordPress backend, click on Settings > Permalinks.
Select custom structure, and select category then postname.
But be warned:
Unless you have a plugin that is specifically configured for doing this, you can cause significant damage to your search engine rankings.
Because one of the side effects of this is introducing 404 errors everywhere on your site where there previously was none.
That’s why it’s important to be mindful and watchful of your permalinks at all times.
8. Experiment & Do Research
Yes, I know. There is a silent minority who feel that experimentation and research are taboo, and that you can do all you need with a few SEO basics and best practices.
However, the real world seldom works out that way.
Competitiveness changes, industries change, and even SERPs change. This is not new.
You also can’t be successful in search without updating your thinking, or without changing to the latest best practices when the old ones no longer work.
If you stick to things you have always been doing, you will get the results you have always gotten.
Don’t be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone and learn something new.
Change is a given in SEO, and the future should be embraced with unbridled optimism and a giddiness only rivaled by the late Robin Williams.
Because in the end, only you are in charge of your success (or lack thereof).
Featured Image: Created by author, December 2019
All screenshots taken by author, December 2019
101 Quick & Easy Tips to Skyrocket Your Blog Content
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:
- Create curiosity.
- Ask funny questions.
- Use numbers.
- 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
- Concluding Thoughts
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 headline.
- 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
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