When I started blogging, I was told that Google loves fresh content and that, therefore, I should be publishing constantly – as much as once, twice, or even five times per week. With this kind of pressure to perform, it’s easy to see why so many small business owners are either churning out low-quality content sans results, or have given up on having a blog at all.

When I learned that blogging isn’t about when or how often you post, but about making every post count, I was able to grow my blog traffic steadily while publishing sporadically. Here, I’ll share a few of the most important things I’ve learned about optimizing a small business blog.

Keyword Research

As dull as keyword research seems, it makes or breaks the success of every post. Aside from being relevant to your product or service, every successful keyword has two things in common:

  • People are searching for it
  • It’s not so competitive as to be out of reach

To discover keywords that fit these criteria, use an affordable keyword tool like Long Tail Pro or KWFinder. Free tools like Keyword Planner are useful for generating ideas, but they have their limitations; namely, they don’t have a keyword competitiveness metric for the organic (unpaid) search results, which lets you quickly shortlist only those keywords your site can potentially rank for.

Another way to find the right keywords is to identify sites in your industry that are of similar calibre to your own and then borrow their strategy. You can tell which sites are a good match by noting the ones that come up alongside your own website most often in the unpaid results. (You can also compare site metrics using the popular Mozbar Chrome extension, but these metrics aren’t developed by Google and should be taken with a grain of salt.)

Once you’ve identified your top competitors in the search results, use a tool like SEMRush to make note of which keywords are driving the most traffic to those sites. If the keywords are a good fit, add them to your content strategy.

Comprehensive Content

The more comprehensive your blog posts, the more opportunities you have to rank for long-tail keywords, the longer, highly specific phrases people use when searching in search engines. Longer posts are also seen as more authoritative. Therefore, they naturally attract more links from other sites, further increasing your rankings and visibility.

To help give Google more context about the topic of your content, use a free tool like this one to incorporate LSI keywords into your posts. (LSI keywords are keywords that are semantically related to a given keyword, like those found in Google’s “Searches related to” feature.)

Quality Links

Links to your site are still one of Google’s most important ranking signals – and a few links from trusted, authoritative sites can be worth more than hundreds of links from low-quality sources.

I’ve found the following methods helpful for gaining high-quality links:

  • Guest posting on authoritative sites in my industry
  • Pitching journalists and bloggers on Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
  • Creating reference-type material on my blog, which tends to generate a lot of links organically (for example, templates or charts related to my industry)

Other Traffic Opportunities

If your website doesn’t have a lot of authority yet, there are a couple of other ways to drive traffic to your blog that are often overlooked, despite being less competitive than the normal listings. These are the featured snippets and Google Images.

Featured snippets are the specially formatted boxes that appear above the unpaid listings when you trigger a Google search, such as “Why are cats afraid of cucumbers?” Google tends to feature short paragraphs that answer questions clearly and concisely, and you can use this to your benefit.

To find out what questions people in your industry are asking, use a tool like Answer the Public. Then incorporate these questions into headings or subheadings in your blog posts, followed by a short paragraph answering the question.

Similarly, you can optimize your blog to drive traffic from Google Images. For example, you might create an image based on the keyword “free parking downtown Calgary”. Then you could embed your image in a blog post, optimize the image alt tags, and add some supporting text content. Even if the post doesn’t rank on the first page, it can still end up in a Google Image search relatively easily this way.

I hope these tips give you some ideas for optimizing your own small business blog. Once you ditch the myth that you need to blog daily or weekly, and focus instead on developing a clear strategy, blogging becomes a lot more effective and fun.