This article is written for two types of companies and two types of roles. First, its written for:
- B2B companies (that sell a product); and,
- professional services companies (that sell a service).
Second, the type of role its written for is a salesperson or marketing professional that blogs or is intending to.
Why is this guide written for a salesperson?
A salesperson doesn’t historically blog. Why this article brings the role into the fold though is for a few reasons, at least two of which are primary. First, some B2B companies don’t have marketing personnel, but they have at least a sales person (even if it’s the owner). Second, at professional services companies, marketing people are responsible for a plethora of responsibilities: coordinating events, lead database management, interchanging with external vendors, etc., but it’s the actual professional service practitioners (e.g., the financial advisor, lawyer, realtor, consultant, etc.) who is the subject matter expert on the topic related to the firm, and therefore, best situated to write. And with usable content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, they can!
This article is written for anyone who doesn’t have a technical background but is using a simple CMS. Trust me, you can do it.
And if you’re in a marketing role at a professional-services or B2B product company, use this material to support your subject matter experts better! You are the content champion within the organization and professionals will continue to turn to you for your guidance on this topic.
Let’s get to it.
14 Blogging Guidelines for SEO
This article breaks down a total of 14 guidelines that, if you follow, will improve your SEO success when blogging:
- Content Strategy
- H1 (Article Title)
- Google The Title
- H2s & H3s (Subtitles)
- Title Tag
- Meta Description
- SERP Limits
- URL Structure
- Image Descriptions
- Site Speed
- Date It
- Content Strategy
There’s two common articles companies can write: “opinion” and “educational”. In journalism, you may have heard the term, “op/ed”.
An opinion-piece is what you typically read in newspapers under the Opinion or Column sections. You write this type of article in your opinion. This is a common article-type to use in business if you’re writing articles to comment on news affecting your industry, changes to regulations that affects your industry or services, etc.
An example is the article I authored titled Why CASL is Bad for Canada’s Economy and How to Lighten It. As you read this article, you’ll see that it doesn’t educate the reader on how Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) applies to them but, instead, provides recommendations to Canada’s government on how to make it better for everyone.
An educational article is different. It’s when you write an article explaining how to perform a function – whether it be using a software, building something physical, accomplishing a task, etc. This could be an article on how customers can use one of your products. Or, if you’re in professional services, it could be an article on how a client can solve a problem themselves.
A version of an educational article is called a “How-To” article. It’s what this very article is. “How-To” articles are usually written to solve what the article’s title states or implies. In this article’s case, the title is The Ultimate SEO Blogging Guide for Salespeople. There’s no ambiguity in the name. As it states, the article’s design is to educate salespeople about how they can blog for better SEO results. Here’s another example: Setup Google Analytics to Know What Companies Visit Your Website.
Many of the guidelines in this article apply to both types of articles: opinion or educational (How-To), however, it’s written primarily to support the creation of the latter.
- H1 (Article Title)
H1 is a type of heading structure in HTML – it stands for “Heading 1”. Search engines are one of the entities that use a subpage’s heading structure to better understand what a page is about. The H1 is the title of your article. For example, the H1 of this article is The Ultimate SEO Blogging Guide For A Salesperson.
If you’re using a common CMS like WordPress, creating an H1 is easy – just type it into the designated field in your editor.
The above image depicts where the title of an article (H1) is inserted into WordPress.
Keep your H1 descriptive. The best that you can, describe to the reader what they will learn or how they will benefit from reading the article. When you do this, you almost always insert some of the keyterms you want to rank for.
Being descriptive helps Google too. They are trying to index your article semantically the best they can. The more the H1 describes the content of the article, the higher quality reader you’ll source from a major search engine.
If you want to be fancy with a word or two in the H1 for literary effect, go for it. However, make sure two things don’t happen:
- The H1 is altered so much that it doesn’t accurately describe what the article is about.
- The attempt at “fancy” obfuscates what the article is about.
In the first case, you may frustrate a reader after they’ve begun or finished reading your article. In the second, you may not get the right readers to your article in the first place.
- Google The Title
Once you have a proposed H1, “Google it” and see what comes up. What you want to determine is Google’s competitve landscape for the type of article you’re going to write.
Review the top 3-5 search results and ascertain:
- Has your topic been written about?
- If already written about, can you exceed the quality of the other articles?
- Use Moz’s LinkExplorer tool (you get 10 free scans per month) to measure domain authority against your own domain.
Measure your article against the trifecta above. For instance, if your proposed article is up against a more authoritative domain, but you can write a higher quality article and the incumbent article’s intent doesn’t match the search query well, you may be able to outrank it.
Before writing this article, I Google’ed the title. Here were the results:
Most of the listings are popular domains, however, the top listing isn’t an article even on this topic – it’s a listing of “sales blogs” – and none of the top-five listings are written for how a salesperson can blog better. This analysis, combined with other uses for this article – curating via email campaigns, social media, sharing with future clients – was enough for me to proceed with writing the article with this H1.
Think through these considerations in your own review of Google’s search results.
Digital marketing studies in modern years have consistently shown that overall there’s a correlation between an article’s length and its ranking in Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Google’s goal is to provide search results to users that are high quality. Ostensibly, a longer blog article is higher quality than a shorter one because the longer has more room to cover a topic.
For instance, according to this study (2016), “The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.” SERPIQ has reported similar findings: In a 2012 study, they found the average length of article’s in the top six results exceeed 2,000 words.
The image above is a summary provided by serpIQ of a 2016 study they conducted.
Don’t aim to write long articles though. Aim to write a thorough article that happens to be long.
In case you’re curious, this article rings in at 3,081 words.
- H2s & H3s (Subtitles)
Whereas an H1 is HTML heading structure that is usually the title of a blog article, an H2 or H3 is heading structure that’s usually reserved for subtitles within the blog article.
If you’re writing “How To” articles, there’s usually several steps or parts of a concept that you are explaining. These parts can be sections of your article, introducing each new section with an H2 or H3. In this article, the 14 guidelines are labelled as an H3 because they indent under subtitle that introduced this section: 14 Blogging Guidelines for SEO.
In your H2s and H3s, use industry-relevant keywords where you can. Like any text content on a website, Google’s Crawler will refer to the content in headings to help determine what an article is about.
- Creating Hyperlinks
Hyperlinks on third-party websites that point to your website are the most influential type of hyperlink for your website to major search engines. This type of hyperlink is called a backlink. However, embedding links in your own articles, whether to other subpages on your website (known as interlinks), or to third-party websites (known as outbound links) is ostensibly better than no links at all. But in all cases, do it naturally. (in other words, don’t like for the link of it)
Good places to link are within sources or citations that support the mission or thesis of your article. For instance, throughout this article, I’ve linked to articles on this website (interlinks) and third-party ones (outbound links).
The text in a link that’s displayed to a web user is called anchor text. When creating anchor text, link the specific noun you’re referencing. Avoid linking non-descriptive terms like the phrase “click here”. Google prefers anchor text that’s descriptive – it helps its search engine know what the referred page is about. Descriptive anchor text also helps people with physical disabilities who may be using assistive technology – like a screen reader – consume content on your website.
Not Advised: “In a 2012 study (click here), they found the average…”
Correct: “In a 2012 study, they found the average…”
Not Advised: “An example is this piece I authored titled Why CASL is Bad for Canada’s Economy and How to Lighten It (click here to access article).”
Correct: “An example is this piece I authored titled Why CASL is Bad for Canada’s Economy and How to Lighten It.”
- Title Tag
A title tag is:
- the text that shows up in the browser’s title;
- the title for subpages in Google’s SERP; and,
- used when articles are shared on certain social media websites.
The title tag is known to signal to Google what a subpage’s content is about.
Below are these three cases illustrated.
An article’s title tag in a browser’s title:
An article’s title tag in SERP:
An article’s title tag on social media:
Let’s talk about a title tag’s content. The title of your article (i.e., H1) likely has at least one important keyword (but usually several) that you wish your article to rank for, therefore, it’s best to have your blog article’s H1 in the title tag. In almost all cases, after this point in your title tag, list your company’s name. You probably have room for it, so why not?
As a hypothetical example, you could structure it to be:
- [Your article’s H1] | [Your Company’s Name]
As a practical example, this article’s title tag is:
- The Ultimate SEO Blogging Guide For A Salesperson | Kill The Cold Call™
If your website is on WordPress, ask your web developer to setup the Yoast plug-in if it’s not installed. This plug-in will exist as a module on your article’s editor page and will let you set or change SEO-oriented elements such as your title tags and meta descriptions of pages.
- Meta Descriptions
The meta description is the paragraph of text that shows up in a SERP snippet. For example see:
This element is not known to be a signal to Google’s search engine. A thoughtful description, however, can increase the number of users that click on your article in a SERP (known as Click Through Rate or CTR).
Again, with the Yoast plug-in, you can easily customize the meta description of your article.
Google will take the liberty to modify your meta description – sometimes editing parts of it or entirely replacing it with their own version. In the preceding example, you’ll see that they did this. The sentence that reads, “Kill The Cold Call™ is the blog that helps salespeople…” was their insertion, likely taking this text from the website’s main meta description.
Through the introduction of features like Answer Box, Google wants more of a user’s questions answered either right from a SERP or their intent matched when they click into an article. In either case, they care about the content in a meta description.
Moz found that Google modified meta descriptions 15.4% of the time. Given that there’s still many times Google will maintain the meta description you wrote, it’s recommended you create one and use the space available (covered in the next section) to you to maximize the number of people that click on your article.
- SERP Limits
There’s limitations on how much of your article’s title and description will be displayed on a user’s device in SERP. At a certain point, search engines like Google truncate the text, completing the section with an ellipsis (“…”).
Let’s cover the title tag first.
In determining the length of a title tag, Google goes by pixels on a screen. And because letters vary in width (e.g., the letter “y” is wider than “i”) and screen sizes vary in size, the number of characters isn’t constant.
As a rule, keep your character count between 50 and 60. This is supported by Moz research, and RankRanger noted (data collected on August 30, 2018) that the average title tag size is 55.12 characters.
Now let’s go to the meta description.
Google hasn’t released a set of rules for a description’s length. Research shows though, that Google begins truncating descriptions at around 300 words. And in the same data set above, RankRanger noted that the average description length is 165.25 characters.
Keep your descriptions to under 300, and most of the time you’ll be fine.
- URL Structure
The URL structure of your articles is a signal to Google to determine what your page is about.
Here is an advised structure for your blog articles:
- https://www.[your domain name].com/[slug]
Slug is an industry term: it’s the characters in your URL that follow the domain’s abbreviation (e.g., .com, .co, etc.).
If you’re on WordPress, you can easily set your article’s slug in the editor page. Here’s the slug editor for this page:
Keep your slugs short, dividing the words with hyphens, and enclosing targeted keyterms. Here is a transcript excerpt from an interview that was conducted with Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, that supports the reason to keep slugs short:
“If you have got a three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.”
According to Cutts, it’s the first five words in your slug that matter most. If you create long slugs and some of your target keyterms are past the five-word mark, you risk those keyterms not being weighted as heavily by Google – they are too far away.
Shorter slugs are also a better user experience – they present a cleaner and more recitable URL for your readers.
- Describing Images
Recognition technology that search engines use continue to iteratively improve, but aren’t adequately proficient at understanding what an image on a webpage is meant to describe.
You can resolve this by setting an HTML attribute called alt text (or alternative text).
There are three benefits to setting alt text for each image that’s relevant in your article:
- Google will crawl it;
- People using assistive technologies, like screen or braille readers, use this text to learn what an image is about (not to mention, it’s law under the United States’ ADA and Ontario’s AODA); and,
- In cases your images can’t be displayed on a browser, text will appear in each image’s place.
In WordPress, here’s where you can set alt text for your images in two-simple steps:
- In your editor, click on the image and click “edit”.
- In the alternative text field, type in the image’s description:
Unlike the URL’s slug (#10) where filler words like “and”, “or”, etc. aren’t necessary and may even be detrimental, when it comes to alt text, use natural language that adequately describes the image.
- Site Speed
A site’s loading speed is a signal to Google’s search engine. According to Google’s official announcement regarding this signal, they wrote:
“…today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed … Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users.”
According to Matchmetrics who aggregates site loading speeds across the web, its recommended that a website loads in under three seconds.
A fast-loading website helps you with more than search engines. According to Google, “53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.”
Here’s a resource (no login required) where you can quickly test the loading speed of your website.
Is your website not meeting industry standards? If so, add it to your wish-list for your web developer to tackle.
A website can be displayed in a browser with either the http or https protocol. The https protocol stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. Its more secure because it uses encryption.
You can quickly tell if your website is using https by simply looking for the term in the URL bar of your browser. On most web browsers it’ll also be accompanied by an icon (e.g., a padlock in Google Chrome).
Https creates a more secure web, and has also has been an SEO signal for Google since 2014.
- Date It
Listing when your article is published or last updated is a better user experience for readers. By providing a date, you give a reader some sense of the article’s relevancy.
According to Google, the freshness of an article is a signal in their SERP.
A problem arises if you’ve written content that’s relevant but its publication date is aged. As it becomes older, Google may prioritize it less amongst the sea of other articles vying for a searching user’s attention.
As a practice, periodically update the content of articles that perform well with Organic Search traffic and reset their date stamps in your CMS accordingly.
A common thread that runs through all these SEO guidelines is that they benefit your blog’s readers. For instance, by installing https, you’ve made your website more secure; by speeding up your website, you’ve provided content to users faster; by accompanying images with text, you may have assisted someone who has vision loss. When in doubt, put the user first.