How To Format Your Blog Posts For Search Engine Optimization

Here are the basic rules for formatting your posts so that they are more accessible to search engines.  You want Google to easily figure out what your post is about.  The benefit of doing this is not just for Google but it also makes the article more readable/scannable for your human readers as well.  If you find this is too much work then just skip down to the bottom for my “short form” must do suggestions.

The list we’ll be looking at is:

  • Keywords in the url.
  • Keywords in the meta title (and hopefully post title as well).
  • Use and bold the keywords in the first paragraph.
  • Use the keywords in the first subtitle which should be H3.
  • Use H3 subtitles to break up the post.  Or use any “H” tag – it doesn’t matter which one.
  • The post title should be H1.
  • Keyword density – use the keywords in the post but not too much.
  • Set the meta description.

Url – keywords have to be in the url.  You can leave the default title (your post title) in here or strip out the extra words.  For example, your post title might be “Why I chose Ally Bank for my savings account” – the url can be shortened to Ally-bank-savings-account which are your keywords.

Keywords (convert rrsp rrif) should be in the url.

Title – put the key words in the title.  I’ve read that putting them earlier in the title is better, but I doubt it will make much difference.  Don’t forget that you can have one title which will show to your readers and a second (meta) title which the search engines use in the search engine results page.

Read my post on how to write positive post titles.

You should write a title using your keywords that is directly relevant to the post topic.  “Where art thou Romeoil?” is an amusing title for a oil price-based post but search engines won’t get the joke.  Use something like “Is the price of oil going down?”.  The title should be in the H1 format.  You can check the format of your title by looking a post and clicking on “Edit” and then “Page Source” in your browser.

The post title is in H1 tags in the html.

Meta title – if you look at the source html for a post page you should see the meta title which is in the <title> </title> tags.  This is the title that shows up on the top line of the browser as well as the title that is used by search engines.

The meta title appears on the top line of your browser.

If you are using an SEO plugin or if your theme supports it then you can set the post title to your clever title and then set the meta title to the correct title with your keywords.  This way you can impress your readers with your punnery and keep the search engines happy at the same time.

Leaving the meta title blank means the actual post title will be used for the meta title.

Bolding – use the keyword in the first paragraph and bold it.  Bolding tells the search engine that you are emphasizing those words.

Subtitles – use subtitles to break up the post.  Use h3 for the subtitles and use the keywords in one of those subtitles – preferably the first one.  If your H3 subtitles are not formatted to your liking then change your css settings to make them bigger/smaller etc.  Can you use H2 for this purpose? Sure, the whole point is to differentiate the subtitles from the rest of the text.  The difference between a subtitle (with no special formatting) and a very short paragraph is not obvious to a search engine.  I’ve read that H3 is the standard for subtitles, but I suspect you can use H99 and it will still work.

Here is the html showing an H3 subtitle.

Keyword density – This refers to how many times in a post you repeat the keywords.  Using the key words too often makes the post unreadable and could be a red flag for Google.  I would suggest not using it more than once per one hundred words maximum.  I really think if you use it in the title, url, first paragraph and the post topic is indeed all about those keywords then you should be fine.

Meta Description – This is the description which should show up in the search engine results page.  Similar to the meta title, this can be entered using an seo plugin such as All-In-1 seo plugin.

You'll notice that the description is the same one shown in the all-in-1 seo plugin screen shot.

Post length – If the post is too short then it’s hard to imagine it contains much useful info.  On the other hand some of my highest paying posts were quite short (around 300 words).  One benefit of longer posts is that you can have more than one main keyword so your overall income might be higher (ie income coming from several different keywords).

Smaller paragraphs.  This really has nothing to do with search engines but I’ve found that shorter paragraphs are easier to read.  The paragraph you are currently reading is a perfect example.

Short form must do items

Ok, so maybe you are thinking the list above looks too hard.  It isn’t, but if you want to get started with formatting right away then just do the following items which I feel have the biggest impact.

  • url – keywords in url (this should happen automatically so just don’t do anything)
  • title – write a title with the keywords that is about the topic. If your settings are correct the title in the <title> tags should be the same as the post title.
  • subtitles (h3) to break up major paragraphs.  This really makes it more readable.

Conclusion

None of these rules are set in stone, but most of them are intuitive if you know how search engines work.  Do the best you can with formatting – you can always go back and improve old posts so in the interest of time you might want to just do the “must do” items for new posts and only go back and improve posts that end up getting some search engine traffic.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention the “keyword” tag which has been used extensively in the past.  According to Google, they ignore the keyword tag so there isn’t much point in populating it.

Example of SEO post formatting

If you look at this post, you’ll see that I have followed all the rules indicated above.  You should know that I actually could not find a post of mine that followed all the rules listed and had to modify this one to use as an example.  Apparently I don’t use bolding very much.  🙂

  • My keywords for this post are “converting rrif rrsp”.
  • Keywords are in the url
  • They are in the post title as well as the meta title.
  • I’ve (recently) bolded those keywords in the first paragraph.
  • I used them in the first H3 subtitle
  • I used several H3 subtitles to break up the post
  • I use the keywords 3 times in the 800 word post (not counting the subtitle).
  • I’ve set the meta description – <meta name=”description” content=”Rules and strategies regarding converting your RRSP account to a RRIF account.” />

5 Responses to “How To Format Your Blog Posts For Search Engine Optimization”

  1. Is there a difference in using H2 or H3 for subtitles?

  2. Mike says:

    Mike, I doubt it makes any difference if you use H2 or H3.

  3. Bharath Ram says:

    Mike, Really wonderful post. Was very useful. One thing that I am particularly keen about is the meta title tags. I think you are mentioning how to use it for wordpress. But I have a blogger blog and would really appreciate you guiding me to doing the same on blogger.

  4. Mike says:

    Hi Bharath. I’m not familiar with blogspot so I can’t help you. If you are serious about blogging then I would suggest moving to your own self-hosted wordpress blog.

  5. Peter says:

    I use H2 for my subtitles instead of the H3, and it seems to work fine. So I’m assuming the key is that you’re including the keywords in the titles and subtitles. The one thing here i don’t regularly do is the bolding of the keyword. I gotta start trying to do that as well.