More and more business owners are hearing about how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help you get traffic to your website. I’m often asked what needs to be done when creating blog posts to make content rank in search engines. In those cases I’ll quickly list off what needs to be done and I’m left with someone who is staring at me blankly. I realized that my verbal answer is very overwhelming. So, I decided to create this easy-to-follow SEO checklist for blog posts!
How SEO Works
Before we dive in to what needs to be done, let’s first discuss how it works. SEO is the process of making your website easy for search engines to find, read and display in search results. Optimizing your site helps search bots to understand your content. When someone types in a term or phrase into a search engine, search bots look for matching content in their database of indexed web pages to display to the user. This means that your site needs to be included in that index in order to receive organic (non-paid) traffic.
There are many factors that go into determining which websites will appear when a search is conducted. Since search engines want to provide the best possible answer to your inquiry, only higher scoring sites will have a shot at appearing on the first page of results. To get a good understanding of the on-page and off-page optimizations that every site needs to be seen, I searched for an all-inclusive guide to share with you. The best one I’ve found is from Moz, who makes SEO software. They have a wonderful beginner’s guide to SEO that outlines everything you need to know to get started.
What is On-Page SEO?
When we’re optimizing our blog posts for search, we need to take advantage of on-page SEO tactics. These are modifications you can make to your website pages. They include the strategic planning of elements such as the URL, page title, user experience and so much more. On-page optimization is the part we have the most control over, so being thorough is essential.
Off-page SEO is more about how other websites interact with your site. This includes the number of links to your site, reviews, site traffic, etc. You really need both methods to be successful, but that’s not what this post is all about. Of course I’m not going to leave you hanging! Here’s a great guide to off-page SEO from Neil Patel.
Just to be perfectly clear, SEO is a long-term tactic that can take months or, in some cases, years to see the results. If you have a new website that has no authority, you won’t show up in the search next to others with high authority. At least not right away. That’s where your off-page SEO comes in.
On-Page SEO Checklist for Blog Posts
Now that you have a better understanding of how search engines work and why you need to optimize your content for them, let’s go through the elements of the on-page SEO checklist:
Create Valuable Content
As I mentioned earlier, search engines want to deliver the best results for your queries. That means the content you create should leave the reader feeling good and wanting more. Your posts need to be better than the ones that are currently in the top spots of search pages.
Also keep in mind that the length of your content will likely have to be longer than the number one result. For example, if the ranking piece is 1,675 words, you should aim for 2,000. When you’re trying to outrank someone else’s content, find more ways to make it valuable. Do not just add in more “fluff” to increase your word count.
Your content should be very valuable and specific. Create ways for your reader to have small successes after consuming your piece. In my Ultimate Guide to Creating Content, I’ve outlined how to find out what your audience wants to learn more about.
Good User Experience (UX)
When crafting your blog post, keep in mind that this will be read on a screen. Articles that have long paragraphs with no subheadings can be brutal on the eyes. Make sure you are using subheadings, bulleted lists, and short paragraphs.
Additionally, bolding important lines (some that include your keyword) can help the reader know what the important takeaways are. The idea is to make it easily skimmable, while using the elements to drive home your keyword focus (I’ll go into more detail about that later).
For most audiences, you want to write for an eighth grade reading level. You never want your posts to be hard to follow or make anyone feel uneducated. That’s a huge turnoff! However, if your audience is doctorate candidates, then you should match their education level.
Choosing the right keywords for your post is very important. It’s equally important to position them within the page elements so search engines can read it. Here’s where your keywords should appear:
- Page Title – Get your keywords as close to the beginning of the title as possible. For example, if my keyword is Women’s Purple Bicycles, my title might be Women’s Purple Bicycles for Sale.
- URL – Similarly to the title, you want the keywords in the beginning of the URL. It should also be a URL that makes sense to the reader. The address could be www.mysite.com/womens-purple-bicycles. Avoid using random page numbers.
- Body Copy – Throughout the meat of your blog post, aim for a 0.5-1% keyword saturation. If your post is 2,000 words, you want your keyword — and synonyms of your keyword — to appear 20 times. This includes the main headline (H1) and your subheadings (H2-H4). Having your keyword appear in 2-3 headlines and subheadings is ideal. Keep in mind that when you add in keywords, your post should always read well. If it doesn’t make sense, then your user experience will not be as good.
- Image Alt Text – Since search engines cannot see text that’s a part of an image, you need to add descriptive text that includes your keyword to the image’s Alt tag. Once again, you want the keyword as close to the front as possible. Yoast makes an SEO plugin for WordPress websites, check out their guide to Alt tags.
- Internal & External Linking – One thing you may have noticed in this SEO checklist for blog posts is the links that I have provided to you to learn more from other sources. This is called external linking and you want to do with every post. Choose bigger websites to be your sources. It shows search engines that you got information from an authoritative site.
Additionally, you want to link to other related pages on your website. This is called internal linking. This shows search engines that your site has more information on this topic and helps the spiders index more of your pages. One great example of this is when you finish reading a post and at the end there are links to related content.
Whether you’re creating internal or external links, make sure your anchor text — the actual words you attach the link to — is descriptive. Stay away from “click here.” A good rule of thumb is to have three internal and three external links.
Help Pages to Load Faster
While a lot of the page speed optimizations out there are typically done by a web developer, there are a few things you can do to help. Most images that people add to their site are way too big for internet use. There are many free tools to compress your images, such as TinyJPG. Compress your images before you upload them so your page won’t be bogged down trying to load a huge image.
Help search engines give you the best representation on the web with Schema Markups. This is a way of structuring your pages on the back end that helps search engines better display your result. I’m going to let the experts at schema.org explain how to make the most of them. This is likely a task you will pass off to your web developer, but it’s important and I didn’t want to leave it out.
Make it Easy to Share
One of the things you want is someone to read your blog post then share it on their social media. Make it easy to share your content by having social share buttons. These can sometimes be on the side of your screen (look left, you’ll see mine!) or at the top or bottom of your article. This makes it so easy to spread the word and create new links to your site. Most web builder platforms come with this already built in. Make sure you’re using it!
I’m glad you’re still with me! I know learning SEO best practices can be a lot to take in. But with so many brands competing to earn the top slot on the search engine results page (SERP), not taking advantage of on-page seo tactics could be detrimental to your site getting organic traffic. As I said earlier, SEO is more of a journey than a race, so keep at it and don’t give up!
Until next time…
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