Blog SEO Tips for Non-SEOs: 3 Things Bloggers that Aren’t Search Nerds Forget to Do


Here’s your “duh” of the day: You don’t have to be an SEO to be a good blogger. I bet 90% of search marketers read a blog or five that has nothing to do with search marketing, whether it’s a cooking blog, nail art porn or Andrew Sullivan.

Some of the best and most popular blogs in any given niche get high rankings and lots of links without thinking too hard about SEO. Instead, they focus on:

  • Great content: Popular blogs develop huge readerships primarily because the content is awesome; it’s that simple. (Here’s a reminder of the eight qualities that make great content great.)
  • Great design: Almost as important as great content is great design – your business blog needs to be both attractive and usable. High-quality photographs or illustrations are a big plus.
  • Community building: The best bloggers nurture an active, devoted following. New search engine traffic is nice, but they put most of the focus on the readers that keep coming back.
  • Social sharing: Good bloggers love their own content, so they’re not shy to share it around when they create something new. They put it up on Twitter, Facebook, etc. post haste. This gets the chain going so people can start reading, sharing, and commenting.

When you’re nailing it in all four areas, you’re doing a good amount of SEO as a matter of course. That’s because Google knows that by serving up your blog in the top of the results, its users are going to be happy.

But there’s still more you could do to make your blog even better. Here are a few tricks and blogging tips that search engine optimizers know and non-SEO bloggers frequently forget.

Add Internal Links

Don’t think of internal linking as “PageRank sculpting” or some shady-hat SEO thing. The main reason to practice regular internal linking is that it makes your site stickier.

If you write for CinemaFunk, you rank on the first page for “movie review blogs.” Good job! But let’s say, for example, that someone lands on your blog after googling “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Review.” They find your movie review and read it with interest … but do they stick around and read anything else?

Blog SEO Best Practices

They might, if they really like your writing style – luckily, CinemaFunk has a sidebar with links to recent reviews and most popular reviews. This is a great tactic to reduce bounce rate, since new visitors might want to see other content that best represents what you do. There’s a problem with relegating all your links to the sidebar, though – they’re not clearly relevant to the article the visitor landed on, since they’re the same links site-wide.

This blogger missed an opportunity when he compared this movie to another movie that he has reviewed, Upstream Color, but didn’t link to that review:

Internal Linking Tips

Since this would clearly be relevant to the reader, it should really be a link. Don’t make the reader use your site search to find that review! And you know your own content better than anyone, so it should simple for you to find older posts to link to while writing.

Internal linking do’s and don’ts:

  • If you write a new post and realize you have nothing relevant to link to, do let that serve as a map for your next content pieces. For example, CinemaFunk compares Gravity to 2001, but the site doesn’t have a review of 2001 to link to. Why not post some reviews of classic films?
  • Do use descriptive anchor text when linking internally. Hyperlink the words “Upstream Color review,” not arbitrary words like “reviewed last week.” This tells readers what they’ll get when they click the link. There is, theoretically, a risk of over-optimizing your anchor text, but that’s unlikely to happen if you’re not abusing automation or buying links.
  • Don’t overdo it, obviously. Text with too many links is hard to read, and readers will just ignore them.
  • Don’t get so excited about internal links that you never link externally. Sometimes an external link will be the best resource for your readers. Also, when people click that link, you’ll show up in the referring sites list for that external site’s analytics – and that’s a great way to make relevant site owners aware of your existence.

Optimize Images for Search

Often, popular blogs in non-SEO niches will have really beautiful images and photography. For example, take Michelle Phan, who has one of the most popular beauty blogs. She has plenty of pretty sparkly images, like this one:

Blog Image SEO

If you right-click this image in Chrome and select “Inspect element,” you can see what kind of optimization was done on this photo:

Blog Image Optimization

You can see that the image has been made easily Pinnable – hover over the photo, and the words “PIN THIS” appear in an overlay. That’s great because Pinterest is huge for driving traffic to this kind of beauty/lifestyle blog.

Pinterest Optimization for Blogs

But more could be done here to optimize the image for search. The file name is a string of random letters and numbers. This isn’t readable by humans or search engine spiders. Further, the alt text doesn’t tell us what the image is either – it just refers back to the name of the post (“My Week in Photos”).

Blog image optimization do’s and don’ts:

  • Do use descriptive words in your image file names. Instead of 662gf…., this photo should be named something like purple-lips.jpg.
  • Do use your alt text to describe the photo. Use words that will tell Google what’s in the image. This will help it rank in image search results.
  • Do choose photos that are relevant to the topic of your post. That way, you can describe what the photo is using keywords that will help your post rank in the regular search results too.
  • Don’t use image file names and alt text as an opportunity for keyword stuffing. Cramming 20 words into your alt text (“purple lips sparkly lips purple lipstick purple glitter lipstick” etc. etc.) is unnecessary.

Long-Tail Keyword Research

Great bloggers tend to be really good at intuiting the topics their readers want to hear about – that, and/or they pay close attention to what their readers request in the comments. Often, blogging naturals just stumble upon great keywords. They might not even be using keyword tools; can you imagine?!

If you’re just that good at giving the people what they want, I support you. But even if you don’t use keyword tools to get your initial content topic ideas, it’s a good idea to use them to find long-tail keyword variations on your topic of choice. Using those long-tail terms in your content will help you rank for a wider range of keyword searches.

Unfortunately, Google no longer offers an external keyword tool to people who don’t have an AdWords account. But there are lots of other ways to find long-tail keywords – for example, by using Google suggest:

Long-Tail Keywords for Blogs

Here’s a random blog post that I grabbed from my Feedly reader: “Five Books on French Cuisine.” Taking a quick look at Keyword Planner, we can see that “French food” has almost three times the search volume of “French cuisine.”

Long-Tail Keyword SEO

So “French food books” or “books on French food” or “books about French food” would be good keyword variations to include here. (The phrase “French food” appears once in the post, but that’s not a long-tail term.)

There are lot of other ideas here too: “traditional French food,” “French food recipes,” etc. Seeing these terms before you start writing might change the way you approach the post – you might decide to write a few different posts, one on books about traditional French food or the history of French cuisine, another on new French cookbooks, and so on. Or you might decide to write a longer list, divided up into subcategories. Then you could put all those long-tail keyword variations, like “Easy French Food Cookbooks,” into subheadings on the page.

Long-tail keyword do’s and don’ts:

  • Do use long-tail keywords as a way of building out your content. Doing long-tail keyword research may make you realize that you can expand on a point you had forgotten.
  • Do use long-tail keywords in subheads, image file names, your meta description … not just the regular text.
  • Don’t long-tail-keyword-stuff. You can use long-tail keywords in your content without making it obvious that you’re doing it for SEO purposes, as in this old joke:

Blog SEO Joke

BONUS: A Few More Blog SEO Best Practices You May Be Forgetting

Do you optimize your URL structure, so that the URL clearly communicates what the post is about? Some blogging software just assigns a random URL string, rather than keywords, as in this URL:

Do you moderate comments, and respond to all the legitimate ones?

Do you make it easy as cake for people to share your content? We’re talking prominent social buttons!

If you’re in the business of blogging but not in the business of SEO, take a good hard look at your blogging practices. You might be under-optimizing your content.

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Oct 22, 2013

Thank you, your opinion is very straightforward and raised serious issues that blogging always have. I have applied many different ways, including the procedure you have said, but have not found very effective. Looking forward to learning more from you. 

Daisy Coleman
Oct 22, 2013

Great informative article! Guest bloggers are a good way of increasing the popularity of your blog. A guess can post something on your site and you can in return post something on their site.

Elisa Gabbert
Oct 22, 2013

Thanks, Daisy and Danny! Just remember that Google is cracking down a little bit on guest posting ... as with most things in SEO, go for quality, not quantity.

Rick Noel
Oct 22, 2013

Great tips Elisa. All of these techniques are great best practices to help ensure that bloggers can find the demand. Your example with French Cuisine and French Food was a particularly good one. We use The Yoast SEO plug-in which helps users adhere to many of the best practices you outline. Also, making sure that posts are substantive, including images and videos can help, especially post hummingbird. Recency is also super important, especially in certain niches where there is high demand for fresh content in certain contexts that change often such as features/functions of social networks that are continually evolving. Thanks for sharing.

Elisa Gabbert
Oct 22, 2013

Great points, Rick, thanks! In a lot of niches, content goes out of date after a few years anyway, so you can address the recency question by giving older content a refresh and update.

Chih-jen Cheng
Oct 23, 2013

Great article, Elisa. Since this article is written for non-SEOs, I would also recommend one of my favoraite free keyword suggestion tools - ubersuggest

Rayan Quisely
Oct 23, 2013

Great post. Thanks for such nice and detail do's and dont's tips about SEO. The blog having good and interesting content will definatly get more hits and helps in increasing the ranking of website.  

Search Engine Xpert
Oct 23, 2013

Excelleng post Elisa, All the points are very informative and breifly expalined here. I also do blog commenting beacuse this is one of the best way to get traffic and share information among related people or communities. 

The Academic Papers
Oct 23, 2013

great post Elisa you mention all good points its very helpful for all of us and I say you all follow these points

Alex Joll
Oct 23, 2013

Great article and I particularly like the internal links to make the article sticky.I normally try and reference back to earlier articles too as this seems to help.

Oct 23, 2013

That's just what Google likes to be - To forget about SEO when we're working on a site. We should work on it to be user-friendly, not Search Engines friendly.Thanks for sharing it, well said.Regards,Adam

Oct 25, 2013


Oct 23, 2013

Targeting long tail keywords should be a part of any quality SEO strategy as it helps to achieve quick wins and is great for creating a solid content marketing strategy. 

Oct 24, 2013

"You don’t have to be an SEO to be a good blogger." You are right so I concur with you.There are lots of reasons why people generate a blog. Some just wanted to share their list of poems, wants to share their pieces of arts and craft, share informative tutorials about certain things and yes! You are right that ever bloggers read some of them. Why? Because they are information, fun, amazing and helpful.To wrap this up, this pillar is revealing.

Orenj Technology
Oct 24, 2013

I find improving my internal linking structure of my website a good way to boost my traffic since I can put keywords in it on my site to make other pages indexable my search engine bots.

Oct 27, 2013

Great design is a great point, Google does look at that and it impacts the rankings heavily if done incorrectly. Nice post.

John Smith
Oct 28, 2013

Hi Elisa,Great pointers, you have disscused some new aspects of SEO, your methods are quite different especially your explanation about using image tags for SEO purpose and way to find the right keywords which satisfy the user query on google, these tips works for any blog or website regardless of their niche. Thank you for your wise post.

Amy Jasmine
Oct 29, 2013

That's a lovely post! I stopped by when i was researching for optimizing my blog and your presentation was so useful. Keep going. Awaiting to hear more tips from you Elisa!!

Torch manufacturer in India
Oct 31, 2013

HI Elisa, thanks for sharing this useful article. I am not a Seo expert but by reading this I can see the essence of seo and the proper things to be done. I believe that placing a certain website on the top rank is not an immediate process that will take a series of steps. 

SEO Translator
Nov 01, 2013

Great post, Elisa. I would like to add that it is not only advice for non-SEO bloggers, but also a kind reminder to those that DO usually those things!

Nov 05, 2013

Great nice piece of information for better seo.Thanks for sharing valuable tips.

Nov 05, 2013

It's very truth that  first four aspects are becoming more and more important for high ranking. Google set his algorithms in such way that this aspects are very relevant for better ranking. A serious blog  gives   importance naturally to those aspects. Also, is really good, after the building of the blog is finished, to make a little SEO research and see other aspects that could led our website among the first. So, I believe, especially for beginners, your article will be very useful. It points to very important aspects but also to details and I loved to see that you underlined the "internal links" problem, witch I also find very interesting, as visitor and as content writer. As a visitor, because when I find something interesting to read, I could follow internal links to find other usefull informations and as content writer, because I like to share with my readers interesting information.

Nov 06, 2013

Great post I loved it I now know much more about eventbrite! Very well written keep up the good work.

Pakar Seo
Nov 06, 2013

Before you even begin writing an article, ask yourself, “What are the relevant keywords for this post?” It’s important to know what words or phrases you want people to enter into a Google search to find your article.

Nov 07, 2013

your article very helpful but what my problem is is post any comment that side not accept my comment really i don't know help me elisa 

Nov 07, 2013

Great informational !!!  Thanks for sharing your experience.

Nov 07, 2013

Good information for me 

Cecilia Prodanescu
Nov 07, 2013

Better ranking means to comply with Google good SEO practices. Quality content, a very appealing but technically optimized design, a very organized structure of the website, an existing community and social interaction are some imperative aspects of SEO process today. There are some other aspects that may help in better ranking. Everything depends on competition for the keyword that we wan to optimize.

Nov 07, 2013

Great post. i feel very happy after reading this.. great work. 

Nov 07, 2013

It is usually the simple actions that lead to big outcomes when it comes to web and SEO, your post clearly shows the things we can do to improve SEO, thanks!

Nov 07, 2013

Definetly we have to improve SEO, because otherwise we have to change our field of work. We have to follow Google's rules and as I see, content has became one of the main preocupation of this search engine. So, we have to pay very much attention to content, to generate good content, in order to rank well in Google.This article was very helpful in this direction. 

Nov 08, 2013

Informational! As one whose building a new website and struggling, I consider this really helpful in marking and making a website successful. Thanks for sharing a great article.

New Digital Brands
Nov 09, 2013

Very good writeup and interestingly educative. I totally agree with most of your points.

Ryan Law
Nov 10, 2013

You've nailed some of the most overlooked tools at any bloggers disposal - interlinking and anchor text. By overlooking your own internal link structure, you're not only missing out on a chance to drive website visitors through the sales and marketing funnel, but you're ignoring one of the most controllable SEO elements at your disposal - and one that works regardless of your success at sharing and link-building with other relevant websites. If you've got the ability to build your own link profile, do it - and at the very least, you'll be helping your visitors to get more out of your site.

Nov 10, 2013

Very informative article, very helpfull indeed some more SEO tips

Jun 02, 2015

it is a beautiful blog. i read the blog.
i like this. about


Nov 11, 2013


Robert Hull
Nov 12, 2013

These are very helpful tips about SEO blogging. The information you provided are really beneficial. Thank you for sharing. 

Nov 12, 2013

Great article!  Thanks for sharing your SEO experience with us.

yacht insurance
Nov 12, 2013

Blogs are very beneficial to increase the knowledge regarding any topic.

Thiago daLuz
Nov 13, 2013

I like these tips, you've broken down SEO very well for beginners. I'm surprised how many people in the business hubs of  San Francisco don't know how it works. I'll definitely be sharing this around with them.

Nov 14, 2013

Great post, enjoyed the tips!!
Thank you!

Cheryl Rios
Nov 15, 2013

Great post, Thanks for sharing the vital information !! Totally agree with you. 

Nov 18, 2013

It's almost impossible to find such helpful articles these days.Great effort.

Digital Intelligence Blog
Nov 19, 2013

Vey Well said. Simple things like putting a relevant page title, meta description, adding at least one relevant image with alt tags can make a lot of difference to your blog's Optimization. Also, a very important factor - DONT be shy of shraing your content with your contact on Social Media platforms. If you have taken a lot of effort in writing a genuine piece of content, why not share it with relevant groups on Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Also, dont forget to put Social Share buttons for each of your articles. The more shares you get, the better it is for your blog's popularity with search engines!

Nov 19, 2013

Thanks... All the tips you have mentioned above are helpfull.

Nov 20, 2013

Good work Elisa,I liked the way you emphasized over focusing on minute details and the way you explained all crucial areas which can make the blogs more appealing for fellow readers. However constantly blogging relevant information for the internet users can be a great sharing tool. It helps us reach out can develop loyal connections with readers worldwide. I shall consider following your tips to make my write-ups more appealing for the readers. Thanks

Nov 20, 2013

Your information about blog is nice. Especially I like image optimization, it is useful.

Nov 22, 2013

For better keyword research, this is a great guideline. This guideline help me a lot.

Nov 26, 2013

Good article