This question has SEO intent.
The goal with optimization is to get a piece of content, in this case a blog post, ready to rank well on search engines, usually Google.
The first note on this point is to always begin with the intent of optimizing a WordPress post for your target reader. If you want to optimize for Google you have to align your goals with their goals. They want to help people find information.
By optimizing your posts for people you optimize for Google. If you focus only on what you think Google wants it leads down paths that can work in the short-term, but hurt in the long-term.
Links are almost always seemingly the hot topic when it comes to SEO, for example. Google uses links as one of the ways to tell if your brand is trustworthy and well known and that kind of thing. But chasing links can lead to getting any link by any means possible. And Google has gotten really good at telling the difference between different links.
Anyway, leading into this post just know that these tips are how to optimize your WordPress posts for your readers and not necessarily for Google.
There are tools that help to optimize posts. Some are good. Some cross the line and get you thinking about Google and not about people. So be careful with those tools.
Alright, let’s get into the tips.
This is first on the list for a reason. I think first impressions are incredibly important when it comes to blog posts. I do this myself all the time, but I also see others do it just as often.
The first thing that happens when we visit a blog post is scroll or scan through the content. We’re looking for breaks and blocks in the content. Headings and things that break things up. We want to get a feel for what is in the post before we start reading from start to finish.
It’s a quick way to see if the content is worth our time. We do it with books (Table of Contents). We do it with podcasts (podcast notes). We do it with Netflix (episode titles and notes and listings). We do it with all types of content.
Number one on the list of optimizing your WordPress post is to make sure readers can scan it.
2. Short-ish Blocks
Sentences, paragraphs, titles, headings, URLs, etc. You’re looking for short.
It goes back to the first point of allowing people to scan the content. You’re looking to make it as easy to read as possible. That doesn’t mean that the content has to be at a first grade reading level or anything like that. Give people some credit.
But from a looks standpoint you want the content easy to read. Large paragraphs wear people out. When I read books that are kind of on the old side it’s always a struggle to get through a large paragraph. You kind of lose your place pretty easy.
Break up the content. Especially the paragraphs.
3. Links: External & Internal
This is always a big point of contention between me and others. The usual argument is that external links will send readers away from a blog post.
The only time I’ve done that and have seen others do that is when a blog post is simply reiterating what another post is saying. Kind of bringing attention to a news point or something like that.
In my view, that type of post is valuable since it brings attention to a good piece of content, but that’s the breadth of its usefulness.
With external links I mean like the link above in this post to Google’s SEO Starter Guide. By linking to that guide this post provides value, adds context to what I’m saying and also adds legitimacy to the content in this post. And hopefully the content in the rest of the post keeps the readers here even if they click through to that guide.
Everybody in the SEO world wants links. I believe in karma. Give links if you expect to get links.
4. No Distractions/Interruptions
Do you like when you visit a website and instantly get a popup?
Nobody likes that.
Yet on a lot of blogs and blog posts that is exactly what happens.
I’m a fan of just letting the reader read the content. Give them exactly what they want. It’s a longer term play. You’re looking to be helpful and to earn their trust by providing good content.
I don’t like trying to control them or to take something from them before I’ve even had the chance to give them something first.
It’s easy to clutter websites and blogs with distractions. The designs I like the most are the blogs with the least clutter. I like them as a reader and therefore I like them as a blogger.
5. Design, Page Speed
There are a lot of great blog design templates and themes available these days. Like I said above, look for one that is simple and free of distractions. Let your content take center stage. Make sure the font is large enough to read especially on smartphones.
And also make sure the page speed is adequate to really good. If there are issues there then switch hosts. It’s worth it to have a really fast website.
I once experienced a 25% drop in traffic during a short-term page speed issue.
6. Tags, Categories
I don’t really look at tags and categories as having anything to do with SEO. But I still get requests from business owners about using certain tags on blog posts for SEO purposes.
I could be wrong, but I really don’t think tags help with anything other than organizing your content and blog posts. And I do think that is important and helpful to the readers.
If you’re going to include categories and tags on your posts so that readers can find similar content then you definitely want to use them for that reason.
For SEO reasons? Not really worth the effort.
The idea with titles is to include keywords and things like that in the title. I get it. It makes sense, but again you’re getting into tricky territory. If you focus too much on what you think Google wants your titles won’t make sense to readers.
I like to take the approach that a title promises the reader an answer to their question. If that includes using a keyword phrase then it’s all the better. But I don’t like starting with a keyword phrase for the sake of SEO.
This post might be a little different than what you expected from an SEO standpoint, but it’s been a good strategy for me for earning organic traffic for the last 10+ years. You have to take the long-term view that Google wants to help readers and if you focus on readers first it will all work out in the end as far as SEO goes.