Blog Optimization: How to Grow Traffic and Engagement
A business blog is a vital part of the marketing arsenal of most internet-based businesses.
Maintaining a blog offers multi-fold benefits to a business.
A blog not only helps a business position itself as a thought leader, it also helps the business establish a dialogue with its target audience, collect leads and provide an SEO boost. Now consider this, 70-80% of all search users ignore paid ads, focusing mostly on organic search results. Your blog pages can bring you more visibility in the SERPs and drive organic traffic.
That said, it takes considerable effort to reap benefits from a business blog (or a marketing blog).
A business blog requires continuous optimization to attract visitors, and nurture them into becoming customers.
Optimization needs to be done across the structure (SEO), design (user experience), and content (usefulness) of the blog.
This post offers the following key ways you can optimize your business blog:
Identify Your Audience
Running a blog without knowing who you’re writing for can be a waste of time and effort. What if the majority of your blog content caters to only a minuscule section of your intended audience?
You need to know who your readers are. You can identify them based on multiple characteristics, such as their demographic attributes, professional details, and where they lie in your conversion funnel.
Based on such characteristics, you’ll be able to create personas for your users. Having 3-5 reader personas will help you write for all your audience, while being specific to their interest areas.
In the words of Krux, “With personas, businesses can be more strategic in catering to each audience, internalize the customer that they are trying to attract, and relate to them as human beings.”
There are different ways to make your blog more “readable” for your audience. These ways can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Legibility: Clarity of visual design and typography.
- Readability: Complexity of words and sentence structure.
- Comprehension: Ease of understanding the text and drawing valid conclusions.
Improving the legibility of your blog is the most fundamental of these three aspects.
Put greater emphasis on your blog content by employing white space. One of the best examples of this can be found with Mashable:
Reduce distractions (e.g., widgets, links, banners, etc.) on your blog that potentially take readers’ attention away from the main content. You can do that by either providing great contrast to your main content from the distractions, or removing the distractions altogether.
The Backlinko Blog, for instance, has absolutely no distractions:
Furthermore, you can evaluate the typography being used on your blog. Check to see if your font is too small, or your paragraphs are cluttered, or the headings are not distinguishable from the paragraphs.
Conduct user testing for your blog to find out the most effective typography and formatting style for your blog.
On the other hand, the readability of your blog content depends on the written text. Various readability tests help to know if your content is easy to grasp or not. Implement different persuasive copywriting techniques, and check the kind of vocabulary you’re using. User personas will again help you here by giving you an idea about your readers’ comprehension level.
Make Blog Subscription Straightforward
What is the one thing that (almost) every blog wants its readers to do? The answer is “subscribe to the blog.”
It’s only logical to make subscribing to your blog a cakewalk for your visitors. However, there still are a number of blogs that don’t enable easy subscription.
Firstly, your subscription box must be featured on all the pages of your blog. Next, your subscription box should be clearly visible to users to take an action. How about offering a freebie with a subscription? Ensure that the offer itself doesn’t overshadow the subscription box.
The Zoho Blog, for example, does not flaunt a subscription box. The blog instead offers a “Sign Up for Zoho CRM” button, which takes users to a new page with a form. It’s on the form page that Zoho provides a checkbox (along with other form-fields) saying “Subscribe me to Zoho Newsletter.” (This is perhaps because Zoho wants more people to sign-up for their CRM than for their newsletter.) However, users who don’t want to sign up for the Zoho CRM have no way to subscribe to the blog.
Offer Easy Navigation
You don’t want your readers to come to your blog, read once and leave. You want them to stay for as long as possible, and develop a liking for it.
To keep them hooked to your blog, you need to provide easy navigation within the blog. Links to “Previous posts,” and “Related Posts” help. The more content your readers consume, the higher will be the chances they’ll transact with you eventually. Additionally, the lesser that visitors bounce from your blog, the better it will rank on search engines. (More on this later in the post.)
To help readers who are interested in specific keywords or content, include a section listing all the post categories. Below is a neat example taken from the Unbounce Blog:
Your blog can also be a great place to nudge users to try out your product or service. If you think that your audience (or a specific segment of audience) is interested in becoming a customer, you should provide them with relevant navigation options. The Kissmetrics Blog does this smartly:
Provide a Prominent Search Box
Many times, visitors on your blog are unable to track the content they wish to read. They don’t want to go through multiple listing pages, or an infinite scroll to find that content piece. This is when search boxes come in handy.
An inconspicuous search box helps no visitor. Try to keep your search box large enough to be noticed by users, and preferably place it above-the-fold.
The Salesforce Blog features a distinct search box located on the header of the blog, which stays put even when users scroll down:
Optimize Your Social Sharing Options
Social media is the one of the biggest platforms where a blog can get traffic from (along with search engines and email). And for most blogs, it’s the preferred medium for content promotion.
So if you, too, want to extract the full juice out of social media, your blog needs to have optimized social sharing options.
Ensure that your social share buttons are professionally built, and blend well with the overall theme and design of your blog. The buttons should be easy to find on the blog, and allow sharing on all of the relevant social media channels. Display the number of social shares along with the buttons to establish social proof.
Here’s the “sticky” social media share bar on the Social Media Examiner Blog. The bar flaunts the extraordinary number of social shares that the blog garners:
Below is an example from the Aweber Blog. The social share buttons on the blog lie at the end of their each post, and have a rather small size. The sharing options also doesn’t have a button for LinkedIn. These sharing options can be easily missed by some readers.
In addition to the above points that are largely associated with user experience, a blog also needs to be optimized for search engines.
There are multiple on-page optimization techniques that can help your blog reach the top results in search engines:
Minimize Page Load-time
It’s no news that website load-time is one of the more important search engine ranking factors. Bryan Dean from Backlinko says, “Fast-loading websites are significantly more likely to rank in Google.”
Considering this, your blog needs to have a quick load-time for SEO, and for better user experience.
To reduce load-time, you need to make your blog leaner. Eliminate unnecessary elements (or code) from your blog, so your blog becomes “lighter.”
Start by identifying widgets and plugins that don’t serve much purpose on your blog. Without these widgets and plugins, your blog can load faster.
On your blog homepage, stop using infinite scroll if you have one. Practice pagination of your blog posts. Also, limit the number of posts shown on a page.
Cut Down Bounce Rate
Low bounce rates are associated with high Google rankings.
Reducing bounce rate should be your priority not just for ranking well in search engines, but also for increasing the binding power of your blog.
You can minimize your bounce rate by featuring relevant internal links that readers can move to. The links can be on the lines of “Relevant posts” or “Suggested posts.”
Additionally, you need to link ‘to’ your existing posts in your new content pieces. This practice is known as “internal linking.”
Moreover, you should have all the external links on your blog open in a new tab.
Also, review your blog data to find the bounce rate for mobile users. If the bounce rate is high specifically for mobile users, it’s an indication that your blog lacks mobile optimization.
Other SEO Tweaks
Place Keywords Appropriately
Make sure you include your target keywords in all the critical HTML tags of your blog. Use the title tag and meta tags to strategically place your target keywords.
Add “alt-text” for Multimedia
For all the multimedia featured on your blog, you need to accompany them with appropriate alt-text. The alt-text should again be keyword driven, and comprehensive.
Search engines crawling your blog identify the multimedia using their alt-text.
Choose URL Strategically
The URL of each blog post should include the keyword(s) you target with the post, but not be too-long.
If you have a WordPress blog, you can install plugins that can help you make these tweaks. Our favorite SEO plugin is by Yoast. The plugin tracks the SEO for each of our posts, and gives an actionable report at the end.
Here’s a screenshot of the plugin in action:
If you’re lacking resources to publish new blog content regularly, or you want quick SEO results for your blog, go for historical optimization.
Historical optimization is about improving your existing blog content that already receives decent traction into something that brings great business to you.
It consists of a couple of strategies:
- Optimizing blog posts that attract huge traffic, but does not convert much.
- Optimizing blog posts that are highly-converting, but do not receive appreciable traffic.
What Do You Think?
Did you find any of the above tips useful? Did we miss any important optimization technique? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please post them in the comments section below.