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You know that writing blog posts is the key to building your online business. But if you don’t know how to write a blog post that ranks on the first page of Google, all the time and effort you spend writing could be for nothing.
It’s like the proverbial tree in the forest that falls with no one around to hear it. If no one reads your blog post, did it make a sound?
Fortunately, this guide will help you make sure there are readers around to see your blog post. In fact, we’re going to go over, step by step, how to write a blog post that ranks #1 on Google and brings in tons of readers (i.e., potential customers) to your blog month after month.
How to write a blog posts that ranks #1 on Google
As an experienced SEO writer, I’ve helped companies grow their blogs from a few thousand readers to millions of readers per year. Here are the techniques I and my fellow content writers use to write content that not only turns readers into adoring fans and customers, but is also smiled upon by the Google gods.
Table of Contents
- Start by identifying your audience
- Do keyword research
- Figure out the intent behind the keyword
- Use your keyword 3+ times
- Prioritize evergreen and cornerstone content
- Evaluate your competition
- Do your research
- Create your outline
- Craft a short but sweet hook
- Answer all your readers’ questions (but stay within scope)
- Use headers strategically
- Add in images and graphics
- Pick your catchiest headline
- End with a call to action
- Use links to your advantage
- Specify a slug, keyword, and metadescription
- What Google wants to see in your blog post
- What Google doesn’t want to see in your blog post
- Bonus tip: Go after backlinks to boost your SEO
- Types of blog posts that perform well
- Learning how to write a blog post that ranks will pay off big-time
1. Start by identifying your audience
It’s impossible to write an effective blog post if you don’t know who you’re writing for.
So before you start writing, identify exactly who your target audience is for your post.
- Who is your ideal reader?
- What do they want to know?
- What problems do they have that your blog post can solve?
Not only will this step help you create an engaging and targeted blog post, but it will also help you become a better marketer. It’s impossible to sell a product or service without understanding who your customer is first.
If you can determine who your ideal audience is (also called your “buyer persona” or “avatar”), then you can craft a blog post that leaves someone feeling as if you’re speaking directly to them.
2. Do keyword research
Your next step is to do keyword research. A keyword is a word or phrase that people search for in Google.
Keyword tools show you exactly how many times per month people are searching for a certain phrase. They also suggest how competitive the keyword is to rank for.
For instance, the keyword “how to write a good blog post” has a monthly search volume of 260, and UberSuggest gives it an “SEO difficulty” score of 13:
By incorporating keywords into your blog post, you’ll be optimizing your article for search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) can be intimidating to a lot of new bloggers, but learning the basics is well worth it!
If you don’t target a keyword in your blog post, you’ll have a much harder time ranking on Google. Plus, keyword research shows you exactly what people want to know; you don’t have to guess or make up a topic with no real evidence.
Keyword research tools
So how can you find these keywords? Well, there are several tools that help.
One free tool that I recommend to new bloggers is UberSuggest. UberSuggest will give you keyword suggestions, as well as show you how difficult a keyword is to rank for.
You can use this tool in a couple ways. First, you can type ideas into UberSuggest, and it will spit out related keywords with their monthly stats. Alternatively, you could enter the URL of a competitor in your niche to see what keywords they are ranking for.
If you’re just starting out, aim for a keyword that has at least 200 searches per month and a competition score that’s green, meaning it’s relatively easy to rank for. If you’ve already built up some domain authority with your site, you could pursue keywords that are more competitive.
UberSuggest isn’t the only keyword research tool, by the way. If you’re able to invest a little in your blogging business, you could use the more advanced services, Ahrefs or SEMrush.
Go after longtail keywords to start
Note that “long-tail keywords,” or keywords that contain about four words or more, are a great starting point, since they tend to be more specific and easier to rank for.
For instance, you’re probably not going to rank for the keyword “cheap flights,” unless you’re a flight comparison website like CheapOair or Skyscanner.
But if you go after a keyword like, “how to find cheap flights,” you’ll have a better chance of ranking on the first page of Google with a blog post on tips for travelers.
3. Figure out the intent behind the keyword
Once you’ve done your keyword research, it’s time to pick one phrase as your primary keyword.
But before you start writing, think about the intent behind your keyword. If someone is typing this phrase into their Google search bar, what exactly do they want to know?
For example, someone searching for “best blogging platform free” wants a review and comparison of free blogging platforms. When they finish reading your article, they want to have a clear idea of which is the best free blogging platform for them.
Deciphering the intent behind a keyword isn’t always clear, though. If you’re not exactly sure what someone wants to know, simply Google the phrase.
The top-ranking articles should give you a clue into what Google thinks a user wants to know. Plus, this step is an important part of scoping out the competition, which we’ll talk about in more detail below.
For the keyword, “best blogging platform free,” you can see that the top articles review the best platforms; the article ranking #2 seems even more enticing to me, since it promises to help you choose the right blogging platform for you.
What’s more, Google suggests some other related searches, which could contain some useful supplemental keywords that you can add to your own article.
4. Use your keyword 3+ times throughout your article
Make sure to use your primary keyword several times throughout your article.
A good rule of thumb is to use your primary keyword about three times in an article of 1,000 words.
Don’t use it too often, as this will look like “keyword stuffing,” which is a major turnoff to Google. The Yoast plugin can help you determine if you used the keyword a sufficient number of times in your article.
Try to use the keyword at least once in your introduction, as well as in a header (preferably H2). You can also use some supplemental keywords that complement your primary keyword.
For example, my keyword in this post is “how to start a blog,” so I use it in my intro (not pictured) and my first header:
But if you find a keyword that addresses a new topic, don’t worry about using it yet. Instead, save it for your next blog post.
For instance, I didn’t go into detail about “how to write a good blog post” in my “how to start a blog” guide, because this keyword, though related, warrants its own article.
By the way, you also don’t want to write multiple articles targeting the same keyword, since then you’re just competing against yourself. Instead, try to write one awesome article per keyword to give yourself the best chance of ranking on Google.
5. Prioritize “evergreen” and “cornerstone” content
Blog posts that rank the best on Google tend to be evergreen, meaning they’re relevant from month to month, rather than time-bound.
A news article about the lunar eclipse of 2017, for instance, isn’t so relevant anymore (though that event was pretty amazing).
But an article on, say, “how to write a blog post,” is evergreen, because people are searching for this on a consistent basis.
Not only will you have a better chance of ranking on Google with an evergreen article that’s relevant for the long haul, but this kind of content will also help guarantee you traffic month after month.
The other type of content that tends to perform well is cornerstone content. Cornerstone content is not only evergreen, but it also tends to be the most comprehensive and important articles on your site.
Cornerstone posts are usually the ultimate guides or “how to” posts that are informative, comprehensive, and relevant to your site’s mission. On a site about blogging, for instance, an ultimate guide on how to start a blog would be considered cornerstone content.
These cornerstone articles are the ones that will generate the most traffic and, ideally, conversions on your site. Not only should you dedicate the most time and effort to writing these, but you can also mark them as cornerstone content on the back end of WordPress:
6. Evaluate your competition
Now that you’ve defined your audience and identified your keyword, your next step is to scope out the competition.
Open up an incognito browser (that way, your search history won’t influence your search results), and type in your keyword.
Google will show you the top 10 results for that keyword.
If you’re serious about ranking on the first page of Google, you need to open up these results and read through every one of them.
These top-ranking articles will show you exactly what Google has decided is high-quality when it comes to ranking for this keyword.
As you read, evaluate what these articles have in common and where they fall short. Your goal is to write an article that’s even more interesting, thorough, useful, eye-catching, life-changing (etc.) than these posts.
It can feel like a tall order, but this competition research will help spark ideas. It’s an important part of the process when figuring out how to write a blog post that ranks #1.
7. Do your research
Along with scoping out the competition, make sure to do some research from more official sources.
Unfortunately, misinformation can spread if blogs just become an echo chamber of one another. Before sharing anything as fact, make sure to track it down from an official trusted source.
Even though blogging can be more informal than journalism, it’s still a popular source of information. So if you’re sharing data or info that requires fact-checking, do your due diligence before publishing it on your blog.
Not only will this help you write better content, but it will also help you perform better on Google. After all, Google’s mission is to present the best, most reliable content for a given search query, so that’s what you want to create.
8. Create an outline
When you’re writing a lengthy piece of cornerstone content, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds or drift out of scope. To keep your writing sharp, relevant, and to the point, create an outline before you start writing.
This outline can be relatively sparse, but it should include the structure of your blog posts, as well as the overall points you want to make.
Here, you can include notes that you made from reading over your competition or any research you did. A quick blog post template for a list-based article could look like:
- Headline: Brainstorm a bunch of ideas until you land on your best one.
- Intro: 2-3 short paragraphs introducing your article. Use your primary keyword and make sure the reader knows that you’ll be answering their question.
- Table of contents: If you’re writing a long guide, consider adding a table of contents with jump-links to make it easier for your readers to navigate.
- H2: If possible, use your primary keyword again here, followed by a few sentences introducing your list.
- H3’s: Here’s the meat of your article. Include 2 – 4 paragraphs (of 2-3 sentences each) under each H3. Make sure these are sequenced in a logical order and are engaging to your audience.
- H2: Conclusion. This can be short and sweet, but include a call to action — i.e., whatever you want your reader to do next.
By gathering your thoughts in an outline, you’ll stay more organized and make it easier for yourself when it comes time to write your blog post.
9. Craft a short but sweet hook (can do this last)
People’s attention spans are short these days, so you want to hook them with an engaging intro right off the bat.
The last thing you want is for your reader to click away and go to another site before reading your article. (This doesn’t just mean you lose a reader and potential customer, but it can also hurt your SEO, since Google measures “time on page” as part of its ranking algorithm).
To hook your reader at the beginning, spend some time crafting an enticing hook. You can keep it short and simple, but you want to make sure your reader understands that they’ve come to the right place to answer their search query.
In fact, you can even give a quick answer to the search query right at the beginning of your article before you take a deeper dive into the details.
By the way, it can be tough to write an introduction before you’ve written the entire blog post. Many writers find it easier to write the blog post and then write their introduction last.
10. Answer all your readers’ questions (but stay within scope)
As you get into the meat of your blog post, make sure to refer back to our analysis of who your reader is and what they were hoping to find when they entered their particular search query into Google.
Think about what questions they have on a topic, and what they would love to learn from your blog post. Then, write a post that answers all their potential questions and/or solves whatever problem they have.
At the same time, don’t go too crazy here. Even though you’re trying to write evergreen, cornerstone content, you don’t need to write a novel.
If you go out of scope, you could lose your readers’ interest and stop being relevant to what they want to know. So if you find yourself writing on an adjacent topic, rather than the main one, consider saving that text for another article.
For instance, this article is on how to write a blog post. A lot of people searching for this are probably interested in how to make money with your blog posts, but that’s out of scope for this guide.
I saved that topic for another blog post (which you can check out here).
11. Use headers strategically
Not only can a boring introduction cause a reader to click away from your site, but so can a boring wall of text.
Blog posts are best when they’re easily digestible and skimmable. One way to break up the text is to use headers to your advantage.
Use headers to introduce sections, as well as sprinkle in keywords strategically. Start with H2 (H1 is your blog post’s title), and you can use H3s or H4s from there.
In this article, for example, the main topic “How to write a blog post that ranks” is an H2, and the subsequent numbered points are H3.
And don’t write too much under each header. If you find yourself going beyond 4 – 6 short paragraphs, make sure to break up the text with a new header.
Along similar lines, avoid too much text all at once. Blog posts are more readable when you stick to 2-3 sentences per paragraph.
12. Add in images and graphics
Not only can headers make your blog post more visually appealing, but so can images and other graphics.
To avoid a wall of text, mix up your blog post with a,
- Relevant image
- Or a simple bullet pointed list (see what I did there?)
You can find open source images on sites like Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay. If you use a screenshot from another website, make sure to attribute the source.
13. Pick your catchiest headline
After you finish writing your blog post, brainstorm several headline ideas. Remember, Google users are presented with 10 results on the first page of Google.
You want them to click on your blog post, so you’ll need a catchy headline that tells them that your article is the one that will tell them what they want to know.
It can be helpful to incorporate the keyword in your headline if possible, or at least a variation of it.
Scoping out the competition can help here, as well. If every ranking article has the keyword verbatim, for instance, you probably want to use it as is, too.
But if the headlines are more creative, you can probably mix yours up a bit. Checking out the competition will also ensure that you don’t repeat something that’s already been done.
14. End with a call to action
If you’re wondering how to write a blog post that ranks, chances are you’re interested in making money off your blog. So you don’t want readers to simply click away from your post and never visit your blog again.
Instead, keep them engaged with a call to action at the end of your blog post.
This call to action could invite the reader to:
- Click on a relevant blog post
- Sign up for your email list in exchange for a freebie, such as a checklist, ebook, or email course
- Go to a product or sales page
Remember how we talked about figuring out why you’re writing your blog post and who you’re writing it for? Refer back to your analysis when determining the perfect call to action to end your blog post.
By the way, a lot of readers don’t make it all the way to the end of a blog post. You can also include CTAs throughout your post to convert your traffic to your intended goal.
15. Use links to your advantage
Make sure to use internal linking to your advantage in your blog post. If you’ve got other relevant articles, you can link to these throughout your blog.
One way to do this is in an organic way, like in this article:
In the example above, you’re not explicitly telling the reader to click, but someone reading can infer that if they click that text, they will head to a post about building a personal website.
Alternatively, you could use an explicit call to action where you tell the reader to head to a guide, like in this example:
You could also link to external sites, but you don’t want to link to a competitor article that’s ranking for the same term you’re going after. With external links, it’s usually better to stick with really authoritative sites that have a high domain authority.
Curious what your domain authority is? Use Moz’s free tool to find out!
16. Specify a slug, keyword, and meta-description
Before you hit publish on your epic blog post, make sure to specify your slug, keyword, and meta-description.
Regardless of the headline you choose, your article slug (URL) should contain your primary keyword, which you can do on the back end.
You can also use the Yoast plug-in to specify a keyword and meta-description. Your meta-description should contain your keyword and explain what the article is about.
Even though Google doesn’t rely on the meta-description anymore when determining ranking, it’s still useful to write an enticing meta-description that draws in readers.
Here’s the one I’m using for this article:
What Google wants to see in your blog post
As you can see, a lot of writing a successful blog post isn’t just thinking about what your readers want, but also about what Google wants.
We don’t know Google’s algorithm exactly, of course, but we have some clues. Google’s mission is the show the highest-quality content to users, so it looks for the best blog posts to rank for certain terms.
To rank on the first page of Google’s search results, it’s your job to create the best content on your topic. Check out the competition and aim to create something even better.
A few ways to do this include:
- Creating content that’s more in-depth than your competition
- Curating or creating unique data on your topic (e.g., a new survey or study)
- Designing your page with an even better user experience
- Telling a story that’s totally unique and moving to your audience
- Publishing something unique and distinct that takes the topic somewhere it’s never been before
Besides writing great content, there are a few other factors to consider, such as your site speed and ease of use.
If your niche is really competitive, you’ll want to make sure your site has a stellar design and site speed to compete with the big names.
What Google doesn’t want to see in your blog post
We know that Google likes unique, in-depth content, but what doesn’t Google want to see?
Well, it’s not a fan of keyword-stuffing or other attempts to game the system (Google has gotten too smart; it won’t work!).
It also doesn’t tend to like sites that have no clear niche. If you write about travel one day, gardening the next, and embroidery the day after that, Google won’t know what bucket to put you in, and you probably won’t rank anywhere.
Instead, Google prefers blogs that have a clear niche and established authority and expertise in their particular domain.
Google also doesn’t like it if your site has a high bounce rate, as this indicates that your content isn’t answering a reader’s questions and/or your site has a poor user experience.
And finally, Google isn’t necessarily going to reward you for trying to skip ahead of the queue. Real SEO takes time, and you probably won’t see yourself moving up in the rankings for several months.
Writing articles for SEO is playing the long game, but it can be well worth it in the end once thousands of organic visitors start pouring into your site.
Bonus tip: Go after backlinks to boost your SEO
One final but crucial tip: your website needs backlinks if you want your blog posts to rank #1 on Google.
A backlink is basically a link from another site. Backlinks are valuable because they indicate to Google that other sites trust what you have to say.
If you can get a backlink from a site with a high domain authority, your own domain authority score will increase.
So how can you get backlinks? A few approaches are to,
- Offer to write a guest post for another blog in exchange for a link back to yours
- Ask a blogger to do a link exchange (they’ll link to one of your articles, and you’ll link to one of theirs)
- Contribute expert commentary to journalists in exchange for a link. One way to find opportunities for this is to sign up as an expert on HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
- Create original studies, surveys, a stats page, or other data that gets media coverage
These are just a few ideas to get you started, but pursuing backlinks is an essential part of SEO and a must for any blogger who wants their content to rank well on Google.
Types of blog posts that perform well
Before we wrap up, let’s go over a few types of blog posts that tend to perform well. These include:
- How-to guides
- “Best of” guides
- Product comparisons (e.g., X vs. Y)
“Best of” guides and product comparisons are especially useful blog posts for making money, since readers are usually looking for a product recommendation when they search for these terms.
While usually not as helpful for SEO, a few other post types to consider are:
- Success stories or “how they did it” posts
- Interviews with experts
- Industry news
People might not be searching directly for these type of posts, but you can promote them on social media (or have your sources share them with their audience).
Although they probably shouldn’t be the first posts you write as you’re trying to grow traffic and build authority, they could be worth considering once your blog is more established.
Learning how to write a blog post that ranks will pay off big-time
While you can do as much research as you want on how to write a blog post, the fact of the matter is that you have to get down in the trenches and just start writing.
A lot of blogging is trial and error, as well as practice. It’s great to learn best practices, but then you have to put what you learned into action.
Only then will you improve your skills as a blogger and figure out exactly what works with your particular audience.
But putting in the time and effort to write great blog posts will be well worth it. High-quality blog posts can bring in thousands, if not millions of readers every month, which in turn can convert to loyal, paying customers.
So spend some time learning how to write a blog post, and then get started. You and your online business will be glad you did.
Are you in the beginning stages and haven’t started your blog yet? Head to my ultimate guide on how to start a blog, step by step!
Are you wondering exactly how blogs make money? This guide explains all the ways that blogs can bring in revenue, whether you’re an individual blogger or a company that blogs as part of your marketing strategy.