10 Things You Should Do Right Now to Improve SEO on Your Blog

SEO can be hard to understand, even for experienced marketers.

For one, there is precious little information available on how search engines actually rank pages. Nearly two decades after its birth, the Google ranking algorithm is still largely a mystery. If we do know anything about it, it’s mostly through experiments and anecdotes, not large scale data analysis.

To solve this problem, Backlinko teamed up with a bunch of data scientists to analyze over 1 million search results. This study yielded a ton of insight on the factors that actually affect rankings.

In this post, I’m going to use takeaways from this study, and lessons from personal experience implementing these takeaways, to show you 8 things you should do right now on your blog to improve your SEO.

1. Add content to your shorter pieces

One of the main findings from Backlinko’s study is also the least surprising: longer content outranks shorter pieces.

add content to your shorter pieces for SEO on your blog

This finding corroborates another oft-quoted study from SerpIQ which found a strong link between longer content and top rankings.

add content to your shorter pieces 2 for SEO on your blog.png

There is a good chance you have multiple pages on your site that are under 1,000 words (or even lower). There is also a good chance these pages are hovering on page 2 and lower.

Padding out these pages with additional content can give them the boost they need to jump onto page #1.

To do this, follow these steps:

Step 1 – Find pages ranking on 11-30 position in Google

While you can technically add content to any page, you’ll see best results by focusing on pages that rank between 11-30 position in Google. Since these are already doing well, additional content will likely give them the boost they need to get on the first page.

You can use your favorite SEO tool to find these pages. Alternatively, use Google Webmaster Tools to find all keywords for which you rank on position 11-30.

Open Google Webmaster Tools and navigate to your property. In the left pane, go to Search Traffic -> Search Analytics.

Find pages ranking for SEO on your blog

Next, select “Position” and “Pages” in the Search Analytics menu.

select position and pages for SEO on your blog

This will show you a list of pages sorted by their position in the SERPs. Make a list of these pages in your notepad.

Sep 2 – Calculate the word count for low ranked pages

Copy your list of pages from step #1 and paste them into the bulk word count calculator tool here.

bulk word count calculator tool for SEO on your blog

Click on “Perform Check”. This will show you the word count for each page, along with anchor word text and anchor percentage.

perform check for SEO on your blog

This tool isn’t always accurate – it can inflate word count by counting comments as part of the content – but it gives you a fair idea of the length of each page.

If you find any pages under 1,000 words in length, you can update them with additional content to give them a ranking boost.

2. Make your content more engaging

Google’s mission might be to “organize the world’s information”, but it doesn’t want to do so at the cost of its users. The more relevant and engaging pages it can serve up on the first page, the happier its users will be.

Which is to say, it’s in Google’s self-interest to promote engaging content to the top of the SERPs.

Backlinko’s study found something similar: the lower the bounce rate of a website, the higher its rankings.

make your content more engaging for SEO on your blog

This is not to say that low bounce rate alone will help you rank higher, but that Google considers bounce rate as a ranking signal. If fewer people bounce off your site, you likely have something good to offer.

Here’s one example that illustrates this perfectly: a Backlinko page on “how to get high rankings” started ranking on the first page for “how to get high” – a keyword that was nowhere near the actual on-page content.

As a result, the bounce rate and time on site for visitors coming in through this keyword were abysmal, especially when compared against Backlinko’s other pages.

make your content more engaging 2 for SEO on your blog

Google took notice of the high bounce rate and concluded that Backlinko’s content was less than optimal for the keyword “how to get high”. The page dropped from page #1 to page #3 quickly.

make your content more engaging 3 for SEO on your blog

The lesson? Low engagement hurts your rankings.

So how can you make your content more engaging?

Here are three things you can do right away:

Use “bucket brigades”

A “Bucket brigade” is a copywriting technique for keeping readers interested in a sales letter. It involves breaking a paragraph into multiple sentences. To grab attention, the sentences are preceded with a trigger word or phrase.

Something like this:

use bucket bridages for SEO on your blog

The bucket brigade works because:

  • Short sentences are easier to read than long paragraphs
  • The trigger grabs attention

Here are some trigger words/phrases you can use in your own bucket brigades:

use bucket bridages 2 for SEO on your blog

Add images throughout the content

Human beings are highly visual creatures. Our brains process images much faster than images (60,000 times faster, as per one report).

Adding images throughout your content improves your engagement in three ways:

  • It helps break down your content into separate sections
  • It helps to visually illustrate your assertions – the show, not tell approach
  • It captures the attention of people who scan through a page (which is most of your readers)

Backlinko’s data analysis also revealed that pages with at least one image tend to rank better than pages without any visuals.

add images throughout the content for SEO on your blog

There’s also the fact that an image will give you additional search engine traffic through Google Image Search.

Use embedded media

Embedded media – tweets, Instagram posts, YouTube videos – add instant interactivity to otherwise static content. They also increase the amount of time users spend on each page. A visitor watching a 2-minute YouTube video on your site would qualify as “highly engaged”.

I don’t even need to mention the fact that embedded media gives you room to dive deeper into a topic, or show how something is, rather than simply telling them about it.

Here’s an example from Backlinko itself:

use embedded media for SEO on your blog

3. Steal your competitor’s (prospective) customers

In nearly every industry, you’ll probably have a large competitor and a number of smaller players biting at its heels. There is a good chance this large competitor enjoys strong name recognition among customers based on its sheer size and marketing muscle.

For your large competitors, their size is as much a curse as it is a blessing. Many customers will actively seek out alternatives because the larger player move too slowly, has poor customer service, or simply doesn’’t have the features they need.

When this happens, they search for keywords like “alternatives to [competitor name]” or “[competitor name] alternatives”.

steal your competitor

A customer searching for alternatives to a product is likely deep into the Buyer’s Journey and is simply shopping around before making a purchase decision.

If you can show up at the top of the SERPs for these keywords, you have a very strong chance of bagging such customers – or at least capturing some valuable leads.

For example, Groove, a bootstrapped startup that competes against publicly-traded ZenDesk (market cap: $2.28Bn), makes a compelling case for its software through a page appropriately titled, “Alternatives to ZenDesk”:

Zendesk vs. Groove for SEO on your blog

This page ranks on the first page when you search for “alternatives to ZenDesk”. Note the fourth and sixth results as well.

alternatives for Zendesk for SEO on your blog

Try creating such pages for all your top competitors. You won’t get an avalanche of traffic, but you will capture some high-converting customers.

4. Update older content for a quick ranking boost

You might have noticed this in your Google searches:

Update older content for SEO on your blog

Google highlights the content creation date (when available) because it wants to serve only fresh, relevant content to its users. An old post from 2011 might list techniques that are no longer considered cutting edge – something neither Google, nor its users want.

In fact, in 2011, Google rolled out a new algorithm update that emphasized fresh content for certain queries. This is on top of the “Query Deserves Freshness” ranking factor Google announced way back in 2007.

One way to work around this “freshness” factor is to update your existing posts with fresher content. This way, your older content appears as if it was recently published. You can even tell readers exactly what changes you made to the content with your update.

For example, when Backlinko updated an older post with fresher content, its traffic jumped 113.7%.

Update older content- Backlinko for SEO on your blog

In WordPress, updating your post would change the “Last Updated” date.

Update older content -Wordpress for SEO on your blog

This would change the date as it appears in Google SERPs as well:

Google SERPs for SEO on your blog

Which, of course, would lead to better rankings.

5. Use shorter URLs

Backlinko’s study found a strong correlation between URL length and rankings.

use short URL for SEO on your blog

According to Matt Cutts, Google’s algorithm only takes into account the first four or five words in a URL.

This is in line with Google’s aim to make URLs more human readable. Ask yourself, which URL is easier to read?


use short URL for SEO 2 on your blog

Or this:

use short URL 3 for SEO on your blog

In the first example, the URL is so long that it doesn’t even show up completely in the SERPs.

In the second example, on the other hand, the URL gives you a good idea of the page content.

Shorter URLs aren’t just better for SEO, they’re good for social media as well. One study by RadiumOne found that shorter vanity URLs got 25% more clicks than longer URLs.

RadiumOne for SEO on your blog

Additionally, shorter URLs are easier to remember and easier to restructure in case of any change to your URL structure.

6. Add HTTPS to your site

In August 2014, Google announced that it would consider HTTPS as a ranking signal.

Sure enough, HTTPS showed up as a ranking factor in Backlinko’s study. Pages that had HTTPS consistently outranked others.

Use of HTTPS for SEO on your blog

This simply means that all things being equal, a page with HTTPS will rank better than one without it.

Besides better rankings, using HTTPS offers a couple of other benefits as well:

  • More referrer data: Whenever a user passes from a HTTPS-enabled site to a simple HTTP site, the referrer data gets stripped away. Thus, if a user visits your site from Hacker News, it would show up as “Direct” traffic. Adding HTTPS means you get better insight into where your users are coming from.
  • More trust: Forget about Google – your users are likely to trust you more if they see that your site offers them a secure connection. This trust is crucial for conversions if you want your users to give up any private information or make a payment. SSL certificates are visually highlighted in modern browsers, which further boosts your site’s trustworthiness.

HTTPS usage has skyrocketed in the last few years. According to data gathered by BuiltWith, 6.9% of BuiltWith’s top 1 million sites deploy SSL by default, up from just 5% a year ago.

SSL for SEO on your blog

Adding HTTPS is a low hanging fruit that can have a noticeable impact on your rankings. Getting it is relatively cheap and painless. Follow this guide from the EFF to deploy it on your site.

7. Improve site speed

Google announced site speed as a ranking factor way back in 2010.

Since then, mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches. On slower mobile connections, site speed is even more important.

For instance, one study by Google found that 40% of shoppers will abandon a retail or travel site if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds. On smartphones, 29% of users will switch to another website or app if your site loads too slowly.

Backlinko’s study found a clear link between site speed and rankings. The further you moved down the SERPs, the longer the page load times.

improve site speed for SEO on your blog

Improving site speed is another low-hanging fruit that can give you a quick ranking boost. While significant improvements will take some effort, there are a few things you can do right away to get your site to load faster:

Optimize images using Kraken.io

Kraken.io is a tool for optimizing all images on your site. It offers an API as well a WordPress plugin to automate the entire optimization process.

Considering that images are usually the largest elements on any site (in terms of file size), optimized images can reduce your page size significantly.

If you prefer to do this manually, I highly recommend RIOT image optimizer.

Store static content on Amazon S3

Amazon S3 is a cloud storage utility for storing and serving static content. It’s a great way to get tons of additional storage space without bloating up your hosting bills. Since Amazon S3 uses the same infrastructure as Amazon, you get extremely reliable service and fast speeds as well.

Offloading your static content to Amazon S3 can be challenging. However, if you’re using WordPress, you can use the WP Offload S3 Lite plugin to make the process easier.

For more detailed instructions on setting up an S3 “bucket” and linking it to your WordPress, follow this guide.

Use hosted versions of Javascript libraries

There’s a good chance your site uses multiple Javascript libraries such as jQuery, Bootstrap.js, etc.

Serving these libraries through your own server takes up valuable resources. It also means that the libraries will only be served as fast as your servers allow – a big problem is you’re using a slow host.

A better alternative is to use hosted libraries – such as Google Hosted Libraries – to serve all Javascript files.

This offers multiple benefits:

  • Modern browsers can detect if a site uses the same version of a library that has been downloaded earlier (from another site). This way, the browser can serve the library from cache and not even download the file, thus decreasing page size.
  • Hosted libraries, such as Google’s, use state of the art infrastructure to serve files as fast as possible, without tying up your server resources.
  • Hosted libraries always have the most up-to-date and stable versions of all JS files. This means that you won’t have to manually change your JS files after a new release.

A few simple steps like this can radically increase your site speed and give you a quick boost in rankings.

8. Templatize and outsource your content creation

According to one study by HubSpot, businesses with 401-1000 pages get 6x more leads than businesses with 51-100 index pages.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that more content = more traffic.

Creating a large volume of content, however, takes time. You can hire content creators, but competent writers will be prohibitively expensive, especially if you want content at scale.

One solution is to take advantage of templates and use outsourcing judiciously.

For example, a template for all list-based posts might look something like this:


  • Highlight the problem
  • Offer a solution

List item #1

  • Highlight the problem and provide relevant data (O)
  • Offer a solution
  • Example/Case Study (O)
    • Image/Screenshot
    • Describe image/screenshot
    • Provide relevant data

List item #2

  • Highlight the problem and provide relevant data (O)
  • Offer a solution
  • Example/Case Study (O)
    • Image/Screenshot
    • Describe image/screenshot
    • Provide relevant data

List item #3

  • Highlight the problem and provide relevant data (O)
  • Offer a solution
  • Example/Case Study (O)
    • Image/Screenshot
    • Describe image/screenshot
    • Provide relevant data


  • Key takeaways

Here, every item in the list follows the same pattern – the introduction emphasizes the problem, backs up the assertion with data, then offers a solution, followed by a case study or example.

The most time-consuming part of this template is researching and gathering data. Instead of doing this yourself, you can easily outsource these tasks (highlighted with “O” above) for cheap. This way, you’d cut your work in half and save hours without compromising content quality or quantity.

9. Create topically relevant content

One of the findings from Backlinko’s research was that topically relevant content significantly outperforms content that doesn’t cover a topic in-depth.

This means that an in-depth article on a topic will outrank a shallow article, even if the former doesn’t have as strong a domain.

Backlinko’s own content is a perfect example of this.

For instance, this post on Backlinko is the first result for “seo techniques”.

create topically relevant content for SEO on your blog

At close to 4,500 words, it’s a chunky post.

In contrast, the second ranking result from Search Engine Land is just shy of 1,400 words.

This is despite the fact that Backlinko’s domain doesn’t have the same authority as Search Engine Land.

  • Backlinko.com: DA of 72, 6.05k referring domains, 5 year old domain.
  • SearchEngineLand.com: DA of 92, 63.8k referring domains, 10 year old domain.

Here’s another example: when you search for “pricing psychology”, the first result is a post from Nick Kolenda:

create topically relevant content 2 for SEO on your blog

The second result is from KISSMetrics.

Comparing the two, we see the following:

  • KISSMetrics.com: words 2,414, DA 78, PA 66
  • NickKolenda.com: words 10,682, DA 43, PA 53

If you can consistently create similar in-depth content, you should have no problems beating bigger competitors.

10. Automate your outreach

A SEO strategy without strong outreach is bound to fail. If you want to get high value links, you will have to send out tens, even hundreds of emails every day.

I’ve done cold email outreach for years, I’ve actually compiled the best converting cold email templates and best email endings I’ve used into blog posts so others can become better at cold emailing.

Whether you have the resources or not – if you can speed up the outreach process, you can save hours every day.

Outreach usually involves three steps:

  • Finding prospects
  • Looking up their email addresses
  • Sending the outreach email

Using tools like JustReachout, you can easily automate the first two steps. This tool will find prospects as well as their email addresses in just a couple of steps.

For example, searching for “Snapchat” shows you a list of journalists and bloggers who write about Snapchat along with their contact info.

Justreachout for SEO on your blog

This makes the outreach process significantly shorter.

For actually sending out emails, you can use a tool like Buzzstream to send out customized mass emails. You can even split test multiple emails to see what works best.

Over to you

SEO doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. By following data-backed principles, you can get nearly guaranteed improvements in your rankings.

A few minor changes in your content length, content freshness, user-experience and site speed can go a long way in getting you to page #1.

Here’s what you should take away from this post:

  • Longer, fresher content outranks shorter, older content. Update your old, thin content pages accordingly.
  • Engagement rate affects rankings. Add images, use better formatting, and use embedded media to make your content more engaging.
  • Take advantage of Amazon S3, hosted JS libraries and automated image optimization tools to improve page speed.
  • Shorter URLs and HTTPS = better rankings.