Learning how to write SEO-friendly blog posts helps you drive traffic to your website, build your presence online, and ultimately increase your bottom line.
Despite many claims, publishing blog posts is still an effective form of marketing. But to achieve great results, especially when it comes to SEO, there are a few things you need to ensure you do.
Before you publish your next blog post, use this blog post checklist to get the most out of your content.
The focus keyword reflects the topic of the blog post. When you’re researching blog topic ideas, it helps to use a focus keyword with sufficient search volume to attract many readers to your website.
It is also crucial that you choose a keyword that you can realistically rank for. When you have a new website and a low domain rating (DR), you should target keywords with a low keyword difficulty (KD). When you have a higher DR, you can also target more difficult keywords.
To find the right keywords, you should use a keyword research tool. You can find here the best keyword research tools.
Since the focus keyword dictates the theme of your blog, it’s almost impossible to avoid it. Take this post as an example: The focus keyword is “blog post checklist.” It isn’t easy to imagine a good title for this post without mentioning this keyword.
Don’t overthink it, and most importantly, don’t try to mention it more often than necessary in hopes of ranking better. Repeating the same keyword too much (also known as keyword stuffing) has the opposite of the desired effect because it results in a bad user experience.
Besides your focus keyword, you also want to use some secondary keywords relevant to your post. It increases your chances to rank for this post. You’ll likely rank higher for secondary keywords before your focus keyword because they’re less competitive.
Similar to the focus keyword, avoid stuffing your post with secondary keywords.
Here is my advice on how to approach keyword optimization.
Let’s use this blog post as an example.
The focus keyword for this blog post is “blog post checklist.”
I’m also targeting the following keywords:
They are all highly relevant to the main topic of the post. They are almost synonyms of the focus keyword. People may type different keywords into Google, but they all mean the same thing. And using synonyms also improves the writing style: They help you avoid using the same word repeatedly.
One last piece of advice on using keywords: Don’t introduce grammar mistakes to include a keyword. Doing so to rank for keywords with spelling mistakes makes your writing sub-par and makes it evident that you’re stuffing keywords.
Write an engaging title that hooks the reader. “How-tos”, lists, and comparisons (“vs”) titles tend to do well.
Try to provide the reader with a preview of what’s to come that matches their search intent.
Make sure they know it’s worthwhile for them to spend time reading your article. If the title shows that they will be provided with the exact information they’re searching for, they’ll be more likely to click through.
Here’s a good straightforward title that works well.
But your titles should not be click-bait; they should accurately reflect the content of the post. If the content doesn’t fulfill the expectations that the title promises, the reader will not read the entire post. Google notices this, which affects your ranking.
Having an engaging blog post title more than anything is about keeping the reader interested and engaged with your content (increasing the time they spend on your page, thereby signaling to Google your content is worth ranking higher).
The introduction is the most critical part of your post. It helps people decide whether reading the rest of the article is worth their time.
Similar to the title, the introduction should be catchy and make the reader curious about the text that follows. But again, make sure that it doesn’t make wrong promises.
For SEO purposes, try to use the focus keyword in the first paragraph. But only if it makes sense and you can include it in naturally. Try to avoid awkward wording or ruining the structure of your content just to place in keywords.
The meta title is different from the title on your blog post itself.
The meta title appears in SERPs (Google search results), and so you need to ensure you size the meta title properly.
Generally, a good rule of thumb is around 60 characters. It’s also good practice to include your brand name in your meta title (included in the 60 characters). For example, this post’s meta title is “25-Point Blog Post Checklist for SEO – GoodFirms,” It comes to 48 characters. Using a small – or a vertical bar | rather before your brand name, rather than a long dash — can save you some pixels.
There are some useful Google SERP snippet optimization tools that let you try different titles and see if you’re going to be cutting off the last few words of your title in SERPs (highly recommended!)
While a large percentage of high-ranking articles don’t contain the specific focus keyword of the article in their meta title, it is good practice to include it when possible and where it naturally makes sense (and as close to the beginning as possible).
Write a meta description between 120-160 characters.
What’s the primary purpose of a meta description?
To entice users to click and provide concise information as a “preview” of your blog post.
The meta description itself isn’t a direct ranking factor. Many articles rank well without a meta description. So there’s no point in squeezing in specific keywords word for word.
Generally, because the meta description is closely related to the main topic you’re talking about, naturally placing in keywords is a good idea.
For example, take a blog post titled “Dog Flu: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention.”
Here’s an example of a meta description that’ll do just fine.
“Does your dog have the flu? Here are the symptoms you should know about and what you can do. Read on to learn more.”
This description gives the reader a good clue what the post is about and includes a sentence “does your dog have the flu” highly related to the search intent behind “dog flu”.
Furthermore, this description ends with a clear call to action (“read on to learn more”).
URL is also known as a permalink. It is the link for your blog post that comes after your domain name.
Your URL goes directly after your homepage/ or after a subcategory like blog/.
Use your focus keyword or a secondary keyword in the URL and keep it short.
Shorter URLs are better because it’s easier for a user to understand the context of a page, and it’s also easier for Google to understand.
For example, if the title for a blog post is “20 Easy Vegetarian Keto Recipes,” you can use “vegetarian-keto-recipes” as your URL, as this is the primary phrase with search volume.
It helps to use title tags to label your headings and subheadings.
H1 is the title tag, H2s are your main subheadings, and H3s are the subheadings that fit topically within the H2s, and so on.
A clear and logical heading structure keeps your content organized and helps readers access specific parts of content based on what they’re looking for.
Make sure not to skip a heading. For instance, following an H2 main subheading, you can either have an H3 subheading or the next H2 main subheading. While it’s not the end of the world, try to avoid using an H4 directly after an H3.
Also, try to include relevant keywords to your subheadings, where it makes sense. Google gives keywords in headings more importance than keywords that appear only in the body text. But again, avoid keyword stuffing.
Search intent is the reason behind a search query. According to Joshua Hardwick, Head of Content at Ahrefs, there are four main types of search intent:
Blog posts are typically informational.
Think about what information the reader is looking for when typing your focus keyword into Google. Your post should provide this information so that you appeal to the right search intent.
If you’re unsure about the search intent, type the keyword into Google and see the top five results. SERP results should give you a pretty clear picture of the search intent behind specific phrases. Using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’s keyword explorer or a VPN can help you see how SERPs differ from country to country.
Understand exactly who you’re targeting and write to them, specifically.
The more laser focused your content is to the right target audience, the more personal and engaging it will feel.
While writing, keep the following questions in mind:
Try to use the language of your audience. When you’re writing to medical doctors, the tone should differ from when writing to laypeople. Using their language helps to build trust and makes them more likely to buy your products.
Also, write simple and easy to understand sentences, and avoid technical terms unless you are 100% sure your audience is familiar with them. Generally speaking less technical content will perform better for SEO, as it’s easier to understand the context of what is being said.
Your blog post’s main goal should be to provide more useful and accessible information than your competition. If you achieve this goal, a high ranking will follow naturally.
It should address the reader’s problems and answer their questions in a better way than competing posts. The provided information should be accurate and well-researched.
For example, if you’re creating a blog post on how to write a press release, then include a press release template and examples of press releases. Use a keyword search tool to find exactly what people search alongside the primary topic you’re covering, so that you’re not guessing.
Truly put yourself in the shoes of the user and think about what you’d want to see as them.
Check the top results as your competition has already done this work for you, but don’t copy it. Use it for inspiration and improve upon it.
Think to yourself, what else can I add to our content that’s missing from the current top-ranking content?
You can always provide more value, and that’s what you should seek to do if you want not only to rank high but keep that ranking and have content that people genuinely want to link back to.
Original content provides more value. Real value is giving information that cannot be found anywhere else. If your blog post’s content reiterates what’s covered in the top five search results, it’s not of high value.
Google also notices that and will penalize you for copying content, so be sure that you don’t plagiarize, and be sure to check your content for originality prior to publishing it.
So go the extra mile and come up with unique content. If it also provides real value, Google will reward you for doing so.
People typically don’t read through all content— around 20% at best read through an entire article.
What’s more common is for someone to scroll through an article and find the point that’s most relevant to them, then read that sentence or paragraph.
Including H2 and H3 subheadings, bullet points, screenshots, and bolded words are essential for the modern-day user experience to compliment how users typically navigate blog posts. Making content “skimmable” provides a more comfortable reading experience.
Before you start writing, take a look at the top-ranking posts for your focus keyword. Check how detailed and long they are and use this as a starting point for your blog post length.
Providing value is the first goal, but it’s hard to compete with a 3000-word long-detailed ultimate guide with a post that is 300 words long.
Longer content tends to result in more social shares, backlinks, and has the potential to rank for more keywords. But that doesn’t mean longer is always better. Sometimes less is more.
Fundamentally, your post’s optimal length should depend on the nature of the topic at hand, how much it deserves, and also your competition.
Good graphics can help increase user retention, decrease bounce rates, and provide more visual learners value.
Add graphics, such as screenshots, especially for “how-to” type posts where screenshots and images help guide a reader through what you’re explaining. Take a look at this post as an example.
That said, some articles, such as a blog post titled “Can coffee cause acne?” don’t necessarily need screenshots or graphics to provide the best value to readers, and in fact, excessive use of images may be counterproductive if it doesn’t serve a purpose.
Most importantly, try to avoid random stock images. Generally, this will decrease user experience and bloat the page, slowing it down.
Optimizing your images on your blog posts can help greatly with increasing your website speed and traffic potential.
To optimize your images for SEO, make sure you add the following for each image:
UseJPG rather than PNG images as the quality is similar, but the file size of JPEG is smaller, increasing your website speed.
Upload images at their smallest size needed without compromising the quality too much, and find a way either with the help of your developer or a plugin to optimize image size and ratios for different devices and browsers.
Website speed is a crucial ranking factor for blog posts. The faster your blog post loads, the better the user experience is, and Google wants to prioritize content that provides a better user experience as it makes information more accessible.
The following steps should help with your website performance.
You can check your website performance and speed using Google PageSpeed Insights.
The report this test produces will give you information about your website loading speed that you can then hand over to your web team to implement.
Internal links are essential for two primary reasons. Firstly, they help users navigate around your website.
Suppose you’re writing about CBD for pain and mentioned drug interactions that occur with CBD. In that case, you could internally link the word “CBD drug interactions” to then direct to a specific article on this topic.
Secondly, internal links help form a strong website architecture and help Google understand what’s most and least important within your website.
Internal links are just like backlinks.
The more backlinks you have to a page, either from external sources or internal pages, the more authoritative Google sees it. So you can increase the SEO value of a page by linking to it more often.
Be strategic about where you’re internally linking, and consider both what you want Google to prioritize and what is most useful for your users. For example, you may choose to link to “transactional” pages on your website from blog posts to transfer SEO value because these pages typically don’t get backlinks organically as much as informational blog posts do.
Linking to authoritative sites (i.e., external links) is not “bad for SEO,” as many people claim.
Don’t be afraid to link to a blog post on a website with high authority in your industry that provides valuable content and information in the context of what you’re writing.
In the “search intent” section, I linked to Joshua’s article from Ahrefs.
Because they’re an authoritative source on the topic, it also doesn’t make sense to explain everything they did (very well, I might add) within one small section in this blog post. And of course, you should be citing your sources and giving credit where credit is due.
Many top SEOs promote the use of external links for SEO. You associate yourself with similar websites, and this can help your website build authority and relevance. Just be sure to link out to pages and websites that are true topic authorities.
Credible citations are essential for “YMYL” topics. YMYL stands for “your money or your life),” which describes topics that affect a person’s money or life (e.g medical, finance, or legal).
Since these topics are important to health and mental well-being, Google wants to prioritize content that cites credible sources (especially primary sources) as this increases the probability the content is accurate, safe, and responsible.
Suppose you’re writing an article about ketogenic diets and diabetes. In that case, you should link to scientific studies, such as this study from Pubmed below, rather than a random blog post (even if it provides similar information).
Setting outbound links to open on a new page isn’t necessary, but most big players do it and for good reason.
If someone clicks on a reference or another external blog post you’re linking to in your post, then you risk the chance of them not coming back to your page.
While if you make external tabs open in a new tab, then the tab with your blog post will remain in their browser, and this will extend user retention and decrease the bounce rate given they don’t intentionally exit out of your post.
While it’s not a direct ranking factor, it could harm user experience and is therefore worth considering from an SEO perspective.
Demonstrating authority and expertise is very important for SEO.
Having experts write your content helps with E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust), a factor Google uses to determine page quality. It’s common practice amongst many top ranking websites in medical, legal and financial fields to have all their content written by experts with advanced qualifications, and this isn’t a coincidence.
First and foremost, these experts will generally provide the most accurate and well put together content on these topics, and it helps Google trust it more.
You can demonstrate expert status in different ways.
Healthline.com has expert reviewers for all their articles to demonstrate expertise and authority. This not only helps to demonstrate authority to Google but from a user’s perspective, they feel safer and more trusting of what they’re reading.
Your blog posts have a purpose and a call to action (CTA) that reflects it. You want to grow your online presence and brand awareness, and they should support your business.
So be sure to have a CTA. It can direct the reader to another post, ask to sign-up for a newsletter, a free download, or whatever you know is best for your specific industry.
Also, be sure to have a way to track a user’s experience through the article so you can track the right ROI and the analytics that come from your traffic.
With a call to action like a free download, you can build a mailing list and continue to provide new articles to your audience from time to time, keeping visitors coming back to your blog posts increasing return visitors. Just be sure not to spam inboxes. Nobody likes that 🙂
Editing and proofreading are important for SEO.
Poor spelling and grammar results in a poor user experience.
Ensure your content is as free of spelling and grammatical errors as possible, written in the correct English type for the country you’re targeting.
Your writing should flow well, logically, and has a natural mixture of short and long sentences to create a natural reading experience. Add a bit of personality to it as well. This is OK to do; Google wants to match human written content to humans, not robotic content written for algorithms (as it once was).
Using software like Grammarly can help you ensure that your content is free of errors. At a higher level, hiring an editor or an editorial team can help you create editorial standards for your blog posts that must be adhered to for quality assurance before publishing.
Moreover, try to write in an active voice whenever possible because it makes the text more engaging and exciting.
To get your content the traffic it deserves from search engines, you’ve got to publish each blog post with a purpose and plan your content marketing objectives. Use this SEO content checklist to ensure you keep your content optimized and ahead of the competition.
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