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Optimize a Single Post On Your Blog for SEO

This is an unofficial extra task for the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook.


Today I spent the morning working on a task that I try to do at least once a month – SEO on individual key posts in my archives.

While it’s important to know and practice the basics principles of SEO in the way you set up your blogs structure and in the writing of your posts – I find it can be very worthwhile periodically going back through key old posts to optimise them even further. I’ve used the following process for a while now and in most cases where I do it I find I’m able to increase my ranking for different posts.

I’m not the world’s best SEO but here’s the process that I use in doing this (I invite you to share yours in comments if you do this type of thing) – I hope you find it useful:

1. Identify Key Posts to Optimize for SEO

Across my active blogs I have 10,000 blog posts so I need to be a little strategic about choosing which blog posts I go back to to give a little SEO attention to.

For me the way that I do this is to dig into my Google Analytics account to work out what posts are already having some success with search traffic – but which could be improved. I generally look for posts that are ranking anywhere from #2 to #10 for their keywords (although sometimes focus upon those which are #1 to strengthen them further).

If a page is already generating some traffic from Google for a keyword but isn’t in the number 1 ranking for the word and increase in ranking should also see an increase in the traffic that the post receives. I’ve seen a variety of studies over the years that show that the #1 ranked result in Google can be getting anywhere from 35-55% of all clicks – the higher you are to the top the better.

Lets look at an example:

I’ve got a page on DPS which ranks #2 (depending where you are) for the term Portrait Photography.

It is a good page to optimise because it’s a relatively good term in the amount of traffic it drives (it’s a term that get a fair bit of searching for in Google) but also because the page is a ‘sneeze page‘ which links to quite a few pages across my photography blog and as a result those who visit that page end up visiting over 7 pages on their visit (the site average is a bit over 2 pages per visit).

The page already generates some healthy traffic (a few thousand visitors a month) so I know if I could get it ranking higher it will generate more.

2. Analyze the Competition

I don’t tend to get this deep into SEO too often but from time to time it can be worthwhile doing a little analysis of what pages that are ranking higher than you for a keyword are doing.

market-samurai-SEO.pngOne tool that I use for this (and other keyword analysis) is Market Samurai. It’s a tool I’ve only been using for a little while but it’s very handy. That link is an affiliate link but it does give you a 12 day free trial. I’ve shelled out for the full version as it has been so handy a tool for this type of analysis.

One of the modules in the Market Samurai system (there are quite a few more) is one that does analysis of what competing pages are doing for a keyword. Lets take a look at what it gives us for ‘portrait photography’ as a keyword (click to enlarge).


You can see that the #2 ranking is for my site but it also shows a variety of information for other ranked sites in the top 10. Some of the information given is not overly relevant to me (or at least is out of my control like the first column which looks at the age of the domain) but some of the information is useful in getting a handle on how your page compares to other sites.

Knowing this might help you work out what you need to do to rank higher – or it might also give you an indication of whether you have much chance of ranking for the keyword at all (if the site you’re trying to compete against is way beyond what you can achieve it might be an indication that you want to go and work on another page).

In this example lets compare my page with the #1 ranked page:

  • DA – domain age – they have a real advantage here.
  • PR – page rank – their page is a 4 and mine is a 3. Something to work on.
  • IC – index count (the number of pages indexed on the domain) – they are obviously a lot bigger site. This doesn’t mean I can’t rank for the term but gives an indication that I’m up against a pretty established site.
  • BLP – the amount of backlinks pointing at the page. They obviously have more (we’ll do some more analysis of this below).
  • BLEG – links from .edu/.gov sites pointing at the page – they have a couple here while I don’t
  • DMZ – is the site in the DMOS directory (I don’t page a lot of attention to this but some say it can be a factor)
  • YAH – is the site in the Yahoo directory (again, not something that I pay much attention to but some say it can be the difference between getting a higher ranking and not)
  • Title – is the keyword/s in the title tags of the post (we both do this)
  • URL – is the keyword/s in the URL of the post (I have the advantage here)
  • Desc – is the keyword in the meta description tag (not something that I’ve found to impact SEO much but perhaps something to consider with the way your post appears in Google)
  • Head – is the keyword/s in a header tag on the page
  • CA – The Cache Age (the number of days since Google Cached the page)

In this case – the analysis shows me that I’m up against a pretty heavy hitter. It’s an established site with lots of links pointing both at the domain and the page itself. I’m tempted to settle for just ranking #2 for this page but for the sake of the exercise I’ll push on.

Note: Market Samurai also gives you the opportunity to dig deeper into competing sites and can give you a breakdown of the actual links pointing at a page. I won’t do the analysis here (it might be deeper than where people are at) but what I found was that in the case of my competition on this one is that the competing site had a lot of forwarded links pointing at it. I’m not sure what was going on with it but it seems that the majority of the links pointing at my competition are from forwarded domains and not actual live pages. This gives me a little hope so I’ll push on with optimising the page.

3. On Page Optimization

The above competitive analysis might give you a few hints as where to begin in optimizing your page. For example if you’ve not got your keywords in ‘title tags’ or ‘header tags’ – you’ll want to fix that. If your keyword is not in the URL, that’s another thing to consider. Those three tweaks alone could have a fairly significant change (I’ve seen changing title tags to include keywords as increasing rankings significantly).

Once you’ve done that you might want to also look at some smaller tweaks that could play a part. Using keywords in bold, using keywords in alt tags on images etc. These are probably not going to have a major impact but could help a little.

Ultimately if you want to rank for a particular keyword – you need to be using that keyword on your page in key spots (titles, headings, URL). Don’t stuff your page full of the keyword (and whatever you do keep your content useful and readable to readers) but a few tweaks might help.

4. Off Page Optimization

You might find that with some on page optmization that your post is already increasing its rankings – particularly if the keyword you’re looking at is not highly competitive. However at times it can be worth looking at ways of generating some extra links to your page as the number and type of links are important in determining how a page ranks in search engines.

I don’t tend to do much of this type of SEO as I find my site tends to get a nice number of links pretty naturally from other sites but I know those who are more into SEO will work hard on some of the following:

  • analysing where the competition is getting their links and looking for opportunities to get links there too – for example if a link is coming to your competitor from a forum discussion or blog comment you might also have an opportunity to leave a quality comment there with your own link.
  • links from other blogs you own (particularly one on a relevant topic) link to your page from it
  • internal links – this is something I do do – basically its about interlinking your posts. While internal links don’t count as much as an external link they can help a little.
  • pitching links to other blogs – if you have a relationship with other blogs in your niche try pitching a link of the page that you’re optimizing to those bloggers.
  • sharing links in social media – most social media sites like Twitter and Facebook put no-follow tags on links so they don’t count directly for SEO but I find that an occasional push of an older post on social media sites can lead to indirect links from other bloggers. I also suspect that search engines are paying more attention to what links are being shared in social media sites so getting your links into them (without spamming) could be useful if you have a network of people who will pass them onto their own networks.

Note: the generation of links can be a fairly ‘black hat’ game at times. It can also be pretty addictive and become an obsession. I personally would prefer to spend my time producing quality content than spending my days asking for links. Do be a little careful with link building – not only can it be a time suck but if you engage in tactics that Google sees as against their Terms of Service (buying links for example) you could also be jeopardizing your sites ranking in their index.

Further Reading on SEO

Do you ever go back and optimize individual posts on your blog for SEO? If so – I’d love to hear your approach to it. This is the way I do it but I’m certain that there will be many other approaches that others take.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Market Samuriai looks cool but their pricing is very illusive. I see all the free and discount stuff but I can’t seem to lock in on what the actual cost is for the full version. Not even on the buy now screen. Frustrating.

    I like the idea of going back through old posts and optimizing them for SEO. It’s still a lot of manual work through and non-technical folks have a tough time with it. We built the Search Engine Optimizer into our InnoBlogs product which scores every blog post for SEO taking the guess work out of it and allowing non-techs to have a successful blog. Pretty cool. Check it out if you get a second.

  2. I hope to become a good SEO some day like you ;) Frankly I still feel I am quiet decent in it. However still at the end of the day there seems to be a long way to complete. Thanks Darren Your one in a billion. I love your posts. The best thing is they are quiet informative

  3. I use a joomla seo plugin on my website but i think that manually inserting keywords maybe a better option. Dont forget use headings h1,h2,h3 because search engines look for them.
    I will try out Market Samurai. Thanks for the tip.

  4. This was an excellent post. I’ve also found that “Tags” can help you a bit with SEO. I’ve found that words in the title are really the key.

  5. hi darren,

    I am a bit confuse here, I started my blog two months ago but I still could not find my blog on google, have you wrote any article about how to get your blog on the search engine. thank you

  6. WordPress is a pretty well optimized system, and does a far better job at allowing every single page to be indexed than every other CMS I have used. But there’s a few things you should do to make it a lot easier still to work with.

  7. Thanks Darren for this great post !

    I have been using all sort of tools to observe and analyze my competition. Before I launch in a new venture the first I always do is analyzing the competitors and see if there’s any opportunity for success.

    I realized that by understanding my competition, my task becomes much easier. All I have to do to reach them is imitate them; and in order to surpass them I move on to do things that they have not done, or do just those things that they have have done more effeciently.

    Since my main focus is on microniches, it has always been possible to get top rankings for my sites.

  8. Thank you for such a great post!
    Thanks for pointing to Market Samurai – looks like a great tool to me.


  9. Hi Darren,

    I know this post is off topic…however, I have a question. Do you plan to conduct the 31 days to creating a better blog this May? I have bought your book and did the challenge last year. But there is something so motivating doing it with others and reading the comments. What are your plans?

    Also, do you plan to publish a second edition of your book on blogging.

    Diane Gregory

  10. Very well written! I think that the key to all of this, amongst the process of course, is in finding a way to structure that into your work lifestyle. This is where alot of people come loose with this kind of thing. Its like, earn a couple of bucks, then what do I do next?

    It would be great to see you cover that topic someday.

  11. Thanks Darren for the informative post.

    I have been concentrating more the contents on my blog rather than SEO aspect of it. Tools like Market Samurai may be good, but there are free tools available on the internet.

  12. Thanks Darren.

    It is a bit like inflation, I suppose. The more people that do SEO, the more other people need to do SEO. And so the spiral continues.

    As more people go online (being South African there is still a lot of growth to be done here) the area gets more competitive.

    Thanks for the tips!


  13. Great post. Analyzing the competition is great way to see how other sites like yours are successful. And I think off page optimization doesn’t get as much credit as on page, though the results can be just as impressive.

  14. I always feel so overwhelmed to remember how you write all your weekly posts in one day. This has been very informative as always Darren. Thanks.

    I always consider writing keyword-centered well-optimized content for my blog in order not to go back and SEO the previous posts. Maybe that’s because it’s my field of work, but I also think why not writing with the search engines in mind from the beginning?

  15. Hi there,
    This was great validation for what I do for clients. When people have new blogs, and are just getting started they need to do what they can around on page optimization and active link building. Until they build up a happy following.

    Market Samuri is a fantastic tool!!! Couldn’t live without it!


  16. Great sharing Darren,

    Even though I can not make money yet in a lot of amount ( like you :-) ) from my blogs, I dare to buy market samurai. It can really help me to find a particular niche which has really low competition but still has enough searches (traffic) in google.com in US. For my level I will not dare to get competition in keyword such as “Portrait Photography” which hold 201K monthly searches and 14.5M competition. That is your level Darren. I will not dare to challenge Darren :-)

    I just will compete in term with 30K monthly searches or lower with 100K competition or lower with specific amount of backlinks that I need which is discovered by market samurai. Now, for some long tail KW, I can place in no.9 in google.com with only backlinks from people who give link love to my blog. I do not yet place some ads until I can get no.1 and receive significant traffic from google.com, thanks for your sharing.

  17. WOW, what a topic and the tips are absolutely mind blowing. Thanks for the tips and I will go through this post in more details to optimise my sites with SEO.

    Does Problogger link back to sites (backlinking) or do they also have nofollow on them?



  18. I love Market Samurai. I’ve been using it for a couple years now and I wouldn’t be without it. I can’t imagine doing SEO stuff and having to look up most of that info manually. It’s such a time saver.

  19. I’m just starting to wrap my head around SEO and getting more traffic to my site. I think this will be a handy thread to come back to over time.

    In the meantime, I’m going to follow Darren’s advice by trying to build authority and rank in Google and work hard at producing quality content.

    Great post.

  20. Nice post. People are so interested in throwing up as many pages as they can that they forget to optimize each one.

  21. A couple of things to help get a Higher page rank with Google is to get bookmarks for social sites.and create backlinks from high ranking blog pages. I also agree that Market Samurai is a great tool My team uses it to.

  22. I’m just beginning to see how important SEO really is. I’ve begun to see that you can really make a great deal of money with Adsense if you have a lot of optimized content and it ranks high in the search engines. I’ve actually got my earnings up to almost $10 a day now, and believe me, that’s not easy to do. It’s important that you learn how to optimize each and every blog post. Great information here, Darren. Right on the money!

  23. Hey Darren

    Good tutorial. Which free tool is best to research keywords? I use Traffic Travis, but ain’t the best thing around.

    Karan Goel

  24. Two months ago I turned my website into a blog and have been posting every day, making a point of doing the meta tags etc. In that time the traffic from search has gone up 300% and the Alexa ranking has gone twice as high. Also I’ve found the post can be live in Google in just a few seconds. I think blogs plus SEO is very powerful.

  25. Very useful tips indeed. Just trying to work out how to improve the SEO of my new blog: http://www.storiesblogspot.com/

  26. Great tips but I really struggle with the whole SEO thing. I find it puts me off my stride entirely. If i’m writing and trying to make it optimised my writing looses its appeal. The method you describes makes things easier as you go over it afterwards and improve the SEO…


  27. I am a big market Samuai fan. In fact, using it is how i found this high PR site. The free version is good but for not much more get the paid version. Blog on.

  28. I am in the “mommy blogger” arena, so many of my posts, really aren’t SEO material, but when I have optimized certain posts, the results have been great. I think many bloggers don’t bother to optimize posts with lower paying keywords.

  29. Really enjoyed the information. Have used Market Samurai a bit but have not gotten that in depth with it. Thanks for going through this exercise to see what can be done to optimize our sites.

  30. Market Samurai is quite simply the best SEO and market research tool out there.

    I’ve been using it for just under a year and it has allowed me to find great niche markets for many websites.

    I’ve now reached a point where I’m close to becoming a full time internet marketer.

    And Market Samurai has played a big role in that.

  31. Awesome article, you guys! I really learned a lot. I’ve been using other softwares for my SEO optimization, but will give your suggestions a try.

  32. Totally agreed with the article and still believe on organic seo and its purify ways.

  33. By the very number of comments on this post shows how good an article this is – thank you for spending the time to share this information and for giving your insight into SEO.

  34. Thanks for the information. SEO optimization should be about how good your site is and not about how much spam you can produce.

  35. Thanks for the information. SEO optimization should be about how good your site is and not about how much spam you can produce.

  36. I’ve only had my blog up and running for 2 weeks now. I’m glad I read your post because I have been toying with the idea of optimizing my blog and reading your post helped me get started. Another great place to go if you need to learn about keyword optimization is http://www.sitesell.com.

  37. Hmm I guess I’ll give this Market Samurai tool a try. Use up the 12 day trial and see how it turns out. I may just do a review on it on my own blog. Thanks for letting us know about this Darren!

  38. i find this blog so useful! thanks. i believe in oraganic SEO and im trying to work on it

  39. Great post, I will definitely try Market Samurai. With all this valuable imformation it provides, it should pay off one day.

  40. Great post Darren,
    I always use your ‘off page optimization’ first methode. analyzing competitor and try to get link from there.

    But, my site is not boost as high as I expect.
    What wrong with my methode?
    Thank you

  41. Darren,

    Like myself I would much rather produce content than worry about links. However, you we all know how important links can be. Better to make a point to do them than ignore them.

  42. Thanks for the tutorial darren.

    As a beginner blogger, I’m strugling to get my blog to SERP. Before reading your tips, all i only do was searching backlinks to my blog.
    Surely i will adapt your tips, and i hope within weeks or month my blog will improve.

  43. Nice post. People are so interested in throwing up as many pages as they can that they forget to optimize each one.

  44. Chris Martinez says: 04/05/2010 at 1:00 pm

    Hi All,

    This was definitely a good post and well thought out points. My biggest SEO opinion is that we should all be using our keywords naturally in post titles and within our posts/articles. This is a huge factor when google is updating our page ranks. Quality content is key but keywords is the backing to get our pages ranked accordingly.

  45. Nice post Darren,

    The point above is the basic knowledge about SEO and mostly people already know only maybe not all people know how exactly to use it, your post explain all clearly.

    Now I know I do the right thing :)

  46. Never thought about optimizing an old post. Will try that today

  47. HI i got fed up with this seo . I have been trying to build quality backlinks from many days but still my website http://www.moviebuffer.com is ranked “0”. I am getting some 200 to 400 pageviews per day. Can u look into my blog and help me out .Give me some small tips .Anyway your blog is awesome. I am new to blogging so i dont know much about your blog. I found very useful articles here.

  48. I haven’t really tried Market Samurai, although I did download the free trial. I wonder if there’s a good seo tool that’s free.

    Great post

  49. I have always been a fan of fancy home page, often overlooking the importance of optimising landing pages or re-working the old posts.

    This article was helpful. I dont know about Market Samurai, but I guess I will continue to provide quality content that can really help the users who read my blog.

    I must look back over my shoulder now. Thanks for sharing.

  50. Excellent post thanks. I’ve been using Market Samurai for quite a few months now but you’ve shared some great new insights that I hadn’t thought of before.

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