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Blogging Guidelines: How to Optimize Your Blog

Blog traffic illustration

In this post you’ll learn how to optimize your blog content to get the results you’re looking for.

Brainstorm before you get started…

To identify your audience before you begin writing, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is interested in my product/service/information?

  • What are they looking for?

  • What needs or questions do they have?

  • What would engage them and make them respond?

Once you answer these questions and understand who you're writing for, it’s time to think about the topic of your article and your keywords.


It’s very important to keep your keywords in mind while creating your blog entries, you will see this trend a lot as the Treehouse provides helpful tips for content creation. Your keywords shouldn’t be stuffed into your content, but mentions of your targeted search terms will help your organic rankings. A good trick here is to read your article out loud (either to yourself or someone else) and pay attention to whether it reads and sounds natural. If you find yourself stumbling over too many mentions of the same term, it’s best to take some out. The rule of thumb is to write for people, not for search engines.

Treehouse tip: Remember that a majority of customers will not be searching for specific products, rather the issues they’re experiencing or the services they know can help. 


Title (or Header)

The title tag shows up as a blue link in the search results.

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Google's SEO Starter Guide says to choose a brief title that reads naturally and accurately describes the topic of the page.


 Every page on your website should have a unique title. If your title is too long or the search engines don't think it's relevant, they may show only a small portion of your title or show different titles depending on the search query.


There are some general guidelines to follow when writing your title:

  • Keep it under 60 characters. “Stop” words like “a,” “of,” “and,” and “for” don’t count. There’s no real character limit since they vary in width. Moz says that 90% of titles will display properly if kept under 60 characters.

  • Put your keywords at the beginning of the title to make sure it’s seen. Google cuts off titles that are too long.


The Treehouse likes to make things easy for you, so our YouBlog widget has a feature that tells you exactly how many characters are in your title as you’re typing. This is just one of the many helpful features built into our widgets, but who’s counting? ;)

Meta Description

The text that shows up under the title in the search results is the meta description. 


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When you write your meta description you want to do two things: 1. describe your blog entry and 2. convince searchers to click on your result. Here are a few other guidelines to follow when crafting your meta descriptions: 

  • Include your keywords (Hint: Google bolds words in your meta description that match the search query).

  • Put your keywords in the first 160 characters to make sure they don’t get cut off.

  • Don’t use an exact keyword phrase more than once.


Body Content

Headings: The main title/heading (H1) of your post tells your customers and search engines what your page is about, but subheadings (H2 and H3 headings) can help break up blocks of text and make your page easier for readers to digest. H2 and H3 headings are also a good place to add related keywords.


Body content:Search marketing expert Bruce Clay says the first 200 words of your page count the most for search engines, so make them count! Make sure to put your main keyword there. Most people don’t see the text “below the fold” or beyond the portion of the page they can see without having to scroll down. Putting the search phrase within the first 200 words will reassure the search engines and visitors that your page is relevant to the search query. 


Most likely, your blog entry will be (and should be) longer than 200 words, so what about the rest of your body content? You should include your keywords naturally throughout your content. Below is an example of what NOT to do:


Your Guide to Blog Optimization

This is an article about blog optimization. Here you’ll learn all about blog optimization and the benefits of optimizing your blog. There are three main benefits of blog optimization:

  • Increase traffic to your website.

  • Improve your search engine rankings.

  • Give your customers information they’re looking for.

Blog optimization takes time, but our blog optimization guidelines will help simplify the blog optimization process.

There’s no need to include your keyword this many times so close together. This doesn’t read naturally and it’s not going to help your SEO strategy. All of which are big red flags to Google.


Links: It’s a good practice to link to relevant pages within your own website. Internal links have three major benefits:

  1. They help search engines determine the structure of your website.

  2. They help pass ranking power around your website.

  3. They help your visitors navigate your website.


Treehouse Tip: a strong internal link can be to a Before & After, Photo Album, Case Study, or Meet the Team page right from within your website. Consider the topic you are writing on and connect to related pages within your site. 


When you add internal links it’s important to include your targeted keywords within the text of the link (or anchor text), without overdoing it. Keep your link to a maximum of 3 words and make sure it’s relevant.


You can also link out to other high-quality websites that are relevant to the topic of your blog. It’s important to refrain from driving traffic away from your website, so ensure these are trustworthy connections. Therefore when including external links, there are some dos and don'ts to follow: 


  • DON’T link out within the first 200 words.

  • DON’T link to a temporary page or piece of content, such as an event page. Pages like this often get taken down after a period of time, leaving a broken link on your blog.

  • DO set the link to open in a new browser window. The Treehouse’s YouBlog widget makes this easy to do. Simply highlight the text that you would like to link, type in the destination url (or link url), and select “Open in New Window” from the target drop-down, then click on “Insert.” When a reader clicks on an external link, a new window will open without disrupting the existing open window of your website, where they are viewing your blog. 


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Images: Images (and videos) encourage your visitors to interact and engage with your page. Images can also help your SEO efforts, but just like your content, it’s important that you optimize your images. Here are a few tips to follow when adding images to your blog:

  • Put your main keyword in the file name, alt text (see example below), and caption or surrounding text. Search engines use these elements to determine if your page is relevant enough to show in the search results. Images without alt text can’t be read by search engines.

  • Compress your images. Images that are too big can slow down your page speed and hurt rankings. The Treehouse recommends keeping images under 250 kilobytes (KB). Our content management system automatically compresses images.

  • Make sure that you own the rights to the photos to avoid copyright infringement. The Treehouse gives contractors access to free images to use through a file management system called FileHive. You can also purchase stock images from websites like Shutterstock and Pixabay.

Treehouse Tip: if you have specific troubleshooting questions around image placement in your blog, reach out to your Account Manager.


Here’s an example of how to optimize an image for our keyword. Let’s use the keyword “adorable puppy.” Notice we use our keyword in the image url (and file name), image description (also known as alt text), and title tag.  


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In Conclusion

When writing and optimizing your blog it’s important to keep your target audience in mind. Write content that’s original and that provides a benefit to your potential customers, whether it’s answers, insight, research, or reviews. Search engines know when content is spammy or duplicated and Google gives penalty warnings for “thin content with little or no added value.” 


Check out this blog post where we explain how to create useful content that ranks in search engines.

To create quality, optimized blog content here’s a cheat sheet to keep on hand of dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

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About the author

Kristina McGovern
Content Specialist
After nearly a decade writing about home improvement, Kristina realizes the importance of having a dry, clean crawl space. Born and raised in Connecticut, she has made it her mission to find good pizza in the South. She enjoys spending time on her 13-acre property with her husband (and high school sweetheart), energetic toddler and rescued Labrador mix.

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