A No-Nonsense Guide to SEO and Content Creation for Bloggers

by Mack Collier

SEO, Blogging,  Content CreationTwo of the most common complaints I hear from bloggers, especially during #Blogchat is:

1 – I wish I could figure out how to post more often and create more content

2 – I wish I better understood SEO and how to optimize my posts for search

I’m going to show you a ‘trick’ that will hopefully help you with both of these issues.  First, we need to pick 3-5 Topic Buckets for your blog.  These are 3-5 key areas that you want to focus on with your blog content.  For example, my Topic Buckets for this blog are:

1 – How businesses and individuals can improve their blogging

2 – How businesses and individuals can better use Twitter

3 – How businesses can create and improve their Social Media Strategies

4 – How businesses can better embrace and empower their fans

5 – Catch-all (Facebook, Social Media Monitoring, everything I don’t want to blog about quite as much goes here)

Now the great thing about this approach is that notice since I have 5 Topic Buckets, if I just write one post a week from each bucket, I’ve got 5 posts for the week!  Or I could spread those 5 posts out over two weeks, so I have 3 posts for the 1st week, then 2 for the second week.  And if I wanted I could add a 3rd post in that second week, either from one of these buckets again, or maybe I want to let you know about a Live #Blogchat coming up, or an event I will be speaking at.

But once you’ve created your Topic Buckets, it makes it MUCH easier for you to organize the content you create on your blog!  And if you want to be super-organized, you could say pick 3 Topic Buckets for your blog, then write a new post for the 1st one every Monday, the 2nd bucket would be every Wednesday, and the 3rd Topic Bucket’s post would be every Friday!

So thanks to Topic Buckets, we’ve tackled the issue of how to create more content.  Really, the biggest issue you will have with this is deciding on what your Topic Buckets should be, and how many you should have.  I think 3 is the perfect number, if you get over 5, then you should probably consider spinning some of them off into a new blog, or eliminating some till you get back down to 5 or less.

Now, let’s talk about optimizing your posts for search and SEO.  Let me say up front I am NOT an SEO expert, the following is good old-fashioned ‘common sense’ advice that I learned by reading SEO experts, then experimenting with my own content here, and seeing what worked, and what didn’t.  This is 101-level stuff to get you started.  I would recommend that you try this, and then when you see the positive results, that will probably whet your appetite to want to learn more about SEO.

First, learn to write better post titles.  Seriously, this was the biggest improvement I made in my blogging this year.  But it goes beyond simply writing a ‘catchy’ headline, you need to seriously consider what words you use in your headline.  Because what you want to do is use certain search keywords and terms in your post’s title.

For example, lets say we want to write a post on how businesses can use Twitter.  Before you start writing the post or even the title, ask yourself ‘what would someone type into Google in order to find this post?’  Put yourself in the shoes of the marketing manager at a mid-sized company that’s trying to decide if her business should start a Twitter account.  Some of the things she might put into Google could be:

  • ‘How do businesses use Twitter?’
  • ‘How can Twitter help my business?’
  • ‘Does my business need to be on Twitter?’
  • ‘How do you get started using Twitter?’

You get the idea.  But notice she is Googling QUESTIONS that she wants the answers to!  Think about it, isn’t this how we usually use Google?  We have a question we want answered.  So taking the marketing manager’s questions in mind, here’s some possible post titles we could go with

1 – Four Innovative Ways Businesses Are Using Twitter

2 – Should Your Business Be on Twitter? Here’s How You Can Decide

3 – How to Start a Twitter Account For Your Business in 5 Minutes!

See how those post titles closely resemble what the marketing manager was Googling?  If you can use the same or similar keywords and phrases in your post title as what others are searching for in search engines, you will greatly increase your post’s chances of ranking high in search results for those words and terms.

Another tip:  Use your keywords as close to the start of the post title as possible.  This helps, but isn’t an absolute.  For example, the first post title of ‘Four Innovative Ways Businesses Are Using Twitter’ could be changed to ‘How Are Businesses Using Twitter? Here’s Four Innovative Ways’.  You may want to make this change because the term ‘How Are Businesses Using Twitter’ will be what more people are searching for.  Personally, I think the 1st version of the post title flows better.

Finally, use the same keyword/phrases in your post title, in the post itself.  Ideally, you want to use the keyword phrase, such as ‘How are businesses using Twitter’ up to 3 times in the post.  Or at least once at the start of the post.  You want to do this because this helps Google and other search engines correctly identify what the post is about.  Google will scan the post and if it sees the same or similar words and phrases repeating in the post, then it assumes that’s what the post is about, then when someone searches for those same or similar phrases, your post will rank higher in search results!

So that’s enough to get you started.  Start creating Topic Buckets for your blog, then start beefing up your post titles with the proper keywords and phrases.  I think you’ll be pleasantly pleased with the results you see!

Ricardo Bueno December 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Great, practical, easy to implement advice Mack! I used to have landing pages for some of my “buckets” but I want to revisit those, and clean up the titles (optimize them in other words).

Mack Collier December 27, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Yes getting your Topic Buckets set really helps you when it comes to writing post cause it helps give you direction and bring clarity to your content. Also helps keep you from trying to go 20 different directions at the same time 😉

Janice December 27, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Thanks Mack! I like no nonsense and have actually been working on my buckets the last couple of weeks. Want to have them set for the start of 2012. Sort of a blogging new year’s resolution. I’ve done incredibly well by having posts on cotton so frequently, I have a couple of other topics and have just been trying to decide what is best for my strategy and that I have enough drive & content on versus what goes into the catch all. :) Will share this with some farm friends.

Mack Collier December 27, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Generally, I try to go with my ‘catch-all’ as being the last post I write for the week, if I write one at all for that week. Because normally it’s like a speaking update, or something a bit off-topic from the rest of the blog.

As for your strategy, a lot of it goes back to WHO you want to read your blog and HOW they would find you if they Googled you. Think about the terms and words they would be searching for and try to incorporate those into your post titles.

Tammy December 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Thanks, Mack! What a great overview!

I like the bucket idea. I’ve been using a similar concept (not wanting two blog posts in a row to be too similar), but I’ve never formalized it. That will be a helpful way to focus my energy.

Mack Collier December 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Thanks Tammy! Personally, I like some structure, but don’t like it to be too rigid. Topic Buckets work for me, hope it does for you too!

Jim Ducharme December 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Great read Mack!

Many people I talk with about editorial calendars find them intimidating even though I always explain that they should start from the most abstract level and drill down. I like the topic bucket approach and that will surely be less intimidating for many.

Jim Ducharme
Community Manager
GetResponse Email Marketing

Matt Weld December 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I, too, like the Bucket List idea, and look forward to organizing my blog in this way. After #blogchat last night, I didn’t expect such a quick delivery on your promise of writing a post on SEO. You are amazing! Thank you.

Gabriele Maidecchi December 28, 2011 at 4:14 am

The most important thing I get from your suggestion is: organization. And I totally agree with that, having an organized mind, a “plan” so to say, it’s the best way to get results in any scenario.
Once you’ve broken down the hardest part of deciding your “buckets”, the rest is just a natural evolution.

Mack Collier December 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Yes sir, I think picking the Topic Buckets is tough, but once you’ve decided on those, it really makes coming up with post ideas a lot easier.

Have a Happy New Year!

Travis Lodolinski December 29, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Great insight. I hope to trackback to this post in the future.

@EnricoWineAsia December 29, 2011 at 7:11 pm

When things has to go right, they just go!

Thanks for the direct to the point advise, I started work on my WP website few days ago exactely when I realize I had my Topic Buckets ready, because as all of you are teaching us, content is king. The main issue now for me was to understand how to start with SEO and where in the dozens of WHITE PAPER I saved, I could find a basic suggestion to make me start.

…and here you come!
It’s like Murphy’s Law vs Good Karma.
Got to be alright!

Joe Winpisinger December 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm

This is simple but effective. Doing your own Google searches is a great idea for title that help with SEO. Another easy way to make your way up the Google Pyramid is to pick a social media site and try to start conversations. The more your blog is shared on social sites the higher it will rank in Google.

Clinton Power December 29, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Thanks for inspiring me to write more, Mack. I like the idea of breaking my streams into the 5 buckets and then using that as a launch pad for other posts. I think this will be helpful for me when I feel stuck about what to write. I can just go back to my buckets and look for the next organic post that would come from that stream. Cool!

Mack Collier December 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for the comment, Clinton! Something else you can do is once you have your Topic Buckets set, then go to source like Google News and set up searches for those same topics! Then subscribe to those searches in Google Reader, and every morning you’ll have the latest news stories for every one of your Topic Buckets!

Kat Fell December 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Great story – I am great a blogging for all my clients, horrible at blogging for myself. I re-pasted your article on my blog for publish tomorrow – keep the wise words coming. Happy New Year!

KC Claveria December 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Love the idea of topic buckets. I’ll do this immediately. Thanks for the great tip.

As a follow up question, do you think that the topic buckets should be somewhat related to each other?

Mack Collier December 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Thanks KC! Personally, I think it’s best if the topic buckets are related, but not necessary. For example, let’s say you are marketing blogger, and you have 3 topic buckets for posts you run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But you are ALSO a huge classical music fan. So you decide to create a 4th topic bucket just for classical music, and you always post about it on Saturdays. Or maybe every other Saturday.

Ideally, I would like to see all the topic buckets be related, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with having one topic bucket that’s completely different from the rest, especially if it’s more personal on an otherwise business-oriented blog. Many readers my enjoy hearing more about that side of you, and it could give you a chance to connect with a new audience!

Seleanaw December 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

I never thought about topic buckets but love the idea. I will definitely give this a try.

Aslam December 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Thanks. The information was a great help especialy for starters like me

Howie Nguyen December 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Excellent ideas Mack. I suppose your buckets are what categories are for. People really should create the categories before starting their blog.

Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive January 2, 2012 at 11:53 am

Topic Buckets… so simple and yet – SUPER helpful! Thanks Mack!

Mack Collier January 3, 2012 at 8:02 am

Thank you Carrie 😉 Happy New Year!

Darren Hanser January 3, 2012 at 9:10 am

Such a great topic. I’ve been getting frustrated as I always want to keep my posts relevant to my blog but also segment appropriately. Using specified buckets will really help going forward. Thanks for adding asp much value

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