How to structure a blog post for SEO and readability
Knowing how to structure a blog post is a skill of its own. Much like any kind of writing, there are a set of rules you must follow if you want to optimise SEO and make sure people find the article easy to read. You can't just go on a 50 paragraph stream-of-consciousness rant - even if you're able to! You need to get concise. And today I'll go through how to do just that.
How important is bold text?
Contrary to popular belief, bold keywords - or any bold text for that matter - aren't recognised by Google. Technically, it won't impact SEO directly, and the same goes for italics. But that doesn't mean it doesn't matter.
Most popular sites still utilise bold and italics for emphasis. And why? Well, it's more fun to read! This makes it easier to read, and readability is paramount. Always keep in mind that most people skim-read when consuming online articles, especially if they're looking for a specific answer to a specific question.
To help maintain a skim-reader's attention, you'll need to visually highlight key info. So if a phrase or sentence sums up your overall point really well, or states an interesting fact, bold it.
Another form of visual highlighting which is perhaps even more important than bold text is of course subheadings.
When and how should I use subheadings?
Ideally, you should be using subheadings in every single article you write. They catch the eye and create structure. And without structure, your article will look like an inaccessible wall of text.
For Top Ten lists, tutorials, or articles like this one, it's fairly easy to see where these headings should go. But if your blog post is more discursive or anecdotal, you'll have to get creative. And if your subject has no structure, make some.
Think of it as placing chapter headings in a book. But more frequent. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 125-225 words per section. Then when it's time for a heading, make it short, snappy and descriptive.
For example, if you're telling a story about how you tried to complete a task and at one stage ran into a problem, introduce this section with a subheading like: 'An unforeseen problem', 'disaster strikes', or 'What I wish I'd known.'
Have fun with it. Your subheadings don't need to be Shakespeare - they just need to be there in one form or another.
How often should I mention my keywords?
Good keyword use is at the heart of all good SEO practice. And yet the jury's out on how many times you should use a keyword in order to rank higher on Google. Because keywords are an inexact science, you'll have to rely largely on your ability to write relevant content without too much fluff.
Definitely make sure your keyword is in your title - that's a given - and at the end, and also peppered 2 or 3 times throughout. Thankfully, Google doesn't care if your keyword is in your subheadings, so that's one less thing to think about.
Some keywords or key phrases will repeat more naturally than others. That's life. And some are all over the internet already. So have a couple of keywords in mind - a primary one and one or two secondary ones - just to widen your net.
The essential Wordpress plugin Yoast SEO is fairly good at telling you if you've overused or underused a keyword. So make sure you're checking that if you use Wordpress. It'll help you remember some of the central rules to how to structure a blog post people want to read.
Wherever you can, create opportunities to reference your other articles, or other pages on your site. This is almost always possible, especially once you've finished ten or so articles.
For example, if you want to know how to best keep track of how well your articles are preforming, check out our Google Analytics Tips for Beginners. You'll find some great tips on things like SSL and bounce rate.
See what I did there?
Bounce rate is essentially how often users land on your site and then leave without browsing your other content. It's a super important factor in how to structure a blog post correctly, and hard to get right. But using internal links is one of the easiest ways to lower bounce rate, boosting SEO.
Notice that my hyperlink above is on relevant text, rather than simply on text that says 'click HERE' or 'this article'. Naming links things like 'click here', is a clear indicator that you don't know what you're doing.
Sentence and paragraph length
Last but not least, let's talk wordiness. Don't be fooled into thinking that longer sentences are better or smarter. Keep most of your sentences under 20 words, and use transition words where possible.
For example, if you can use a full stop before the word 'But' and create a new sentence, do it. (Only if it feels natural, of course). 'And yet', 'Nevertheless', 'However' and 'Despite this', are also great transition options to start sentences with.
Feel free to say things like 'Furthermore', 'Moreover' and 'Additionally' too, but don't get too academic about it. You can start sentences with 'And' and 'But' as much as you like in blog-writing, no matter what your high school teacher told you.
With regards to paragraph length, a similar rule applies: keep it simple. Two or three sentences per paragraph is the ideal you should be aiming for. Remember that many people read articles on their phones, and paragraphs look much longer (and therefore unreadable) on a tiny screen.
Remember, if a section naturally stretches over 225-250 words, you can break it up visually with a photo, graph, illustration, a bullet-point list or (if relevant) a code block.
And that's it!
Hopefully you now know a little more about how to structure a blog post for SEO and readability. At the start, it might seem like a lot to remember, but a lot of these rules soon become second nature.
So don't sweat it too much. And if you have a question, don't hesitate to ask us here in the comments or tweet us. We'll help you as best we can. But in the mean time, have fun blog writing and don't forget to check your analytics!